Posts by joy.the.curious

This crazy journey


It’s hard to explain why I keep at this. For the past four years, I’ve been searching for Jacob Wetterling… a boy I’ve never known, from a town I had barely heard of. I researched and blogged about this boy for about three weeks in 2010, then put his case on the back burner for two years while I moved on to happier writing topics.

During that timeframe, I…

Purchased a set of old love letters on ebay

Took a sabbatical

Got to see Oprah

Wrote and published my first book

Put my first pet to sleep

Sold my business

Started calling myself a writer

Wrote a screenplay

Got some perspective

Wrote a poem

Got invited to make a speech

Reunited a pair of long-lost brothers

Returned a phone call

…and here I am… right back at it again. Full circle, baby.

Truthfully, I can’t fully explain what has brought me to this place. It’s been a long and winding journey with no real destination in sight. I’ve met a lot of good people along the way… people like me who care deeply about finding Jacob. We have put in a ton of time, spent a lot of our own money, and defended our sanity more than once to concerned family and friends.

The question is why.

Well, I guess I can’t answer for everyone, but here’s what I believe. In this search for Jacob… I somehow ended up finding myself. Somewhere along this crazy journey, I found my voice, my passion, and my purpose. That’s it, I guess. Pretty simple, really.

Oh, and maybe just one other thing… I really do believe we can find him.

Keep the thoughts, tips, and prayers coming…


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Autopsy results

Alas, the long-awaited autopsy results are back. Yesterday, according to Lori Hedican, chief investigator for the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office, Delbert Hubert died from natural causes connected to “complications of a perforated gastric ulcer.”

More info here (and a nice plug… thanks): Minneapolis City Pages

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Sorry… it’s been a while. The truth is, I’ve been mulling a lot over what to write about next. It seems I have a million details swirling around in my head, and it’s hard to focus on any one of them at any particular time. So, with that in mind, I decided to just write them all down in no particular order. I’m shooting straight from the hip here, so bear with me. We’ll see how it turns out.

First, this is just a reminder that John Walsh’s new show, “The Hunt,” premieres this Sunday, July 13, on CNN. It airs at 8pm CST, so make sure you do the math for your own time zone and set your DVRs appropriately. Jacob’s case will not be the first show. We were told it will probably air in September, and maybe even as the season finale. I’m not sure though… I’ll let you know when I hear something more definite.

I’ve spent the past several months focusing on the Paynesville incidents, and I have just a few more details to report.

First, there are three more incidents that I recently learned about. I don’t know all the details yet, but here’s what I know:

  • On a weekend evening in August 1986, a boy was grabbed by a man who wanted directions.
  • On Sunday, November 30, 1986, two separate attacks happened on the same day. Both were boys and both were attacked from behind. One boy was not harmed; the other boy was molested.
  • And finally, here’s a quick update on one of the assaults I had previously blogged about… the one where the boy had a lock of his hair cut off by the attacker. Previous to his attack, that boy had been talking to a friend of his just outside the window of her house. Suddenly, according to the friend, the boy just stopped talking. It turns out the guy had grabbed this boy from behind, right in the middle of his conversation, and dragged him into the alley behind the house. Who does something like that?? Brazen.

Now, moving away from the Paynesville incidents for just a bit, I want to put the focus on St. Joseph again. Here are a few tidbits I’ve picked up from commenters on my blog.

First, there has been some debate over whether the police had their sirens on when they first responded to the call. I received a message from one commenter who said he was working that night at a business right on Minnesota Street, which is the main drag through St. Joseph. He was sweeping the parking lot outside, when he suddenly saw one cop car after another exit off I-94 and speed past him, headed toward the Tom Thumb. He recalls it vividly… police/troopers speeding through town at 80-100 MPH, lights on, but no sirens.

Second, here’s another tidbit I’ve mentioned once before. At the time of Jacob’s abduction, there was another boy who lived on 91st Avenue, who felt maybe he had been the intended target of the abduction that night instead of Jacob. He was 14 years old at the time, and unlike Jacob who had never been allowed to go to the store before after dark, this boy and his 12 year old friend had spent nearly every night that summer going to the Tom Thumb after dark.

Here’s his story. One night, he and his 12 year old friend were coming home from the Tom Thumb, maybe around midnight. They were on Baker Street and were taking a left onto 91st Avenue, when a car came from behind them and suddenly started coming faster and faster. As they got closer to the 12 year old’s house, they cut through the ditch, across his front yard, and into the open garage as fast as they could. The car followed them into the driveway, then backed straight across the road into the neighbor’s driveway, and flashed its bright lights on the two boys. The car stayed like that for about two minutes before the boys finally ran into the house.

A couple weeks later, the boys got brave and decided to head to the Tom Thumb once again. It was late, and this time, they noticed a car going from mailbox to mailbox… very slowly… like he was getting information from each residence.

The boys remembered the car looking similar to a Pontiac 6000, but they disagreed on the color… one said blue, the other said red. For this reason, they felt like maybe they weren’t believed when they told their story to the police just few days after Jacob was abducted.

This young man also had a few other interesting tidbits to share. First, regarding the party spot back in the woods… he remembers where that was. It was back by Palmerscheid Pond and Klinefelter Park. There was a road back there where people would party. He also mentioned it was possible to get a car through there… it was all woods, but with a little off-roading, you could weasel your way out.

Second, on the night of Jacob’s kidnapping, this young man’s family didn’t know anything had happened… they never heard a thing. No sirens, no helicopters… nothing. He remembers waking up the next morning to the sound of police dogs barking outside his bedroom window. His dad, however, swears up and down that about the time Jacob was kidnapped, the family dog was barking in the woods behind their house, which butted up to the Del-Win Ballroom. There were a lot of trails back there, but no way to get a car out… neither there, nor behind Rassiers’ place.

So, those are my tidbits for now. I’ve been doing a lot of research, making a lot of phone calls, and trying not to get too overwhelmed with all the details. I’ll try to write again soon, but in the meantime, keep the tips, comments, and prayers coming. And thanks again for following along.

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Another incident and some exciting news

Thanks again to everyone who continues to follow and comment on my Jacob Wetterling story. I have another incident to report that took place in Paynesville sometime during the late 1980s or early 1990s. I’ll share that in a moment, but first I have some other big news.

John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted has a new show called The Hunt coming out on CNN next month. He became interested in the new leads that have been generated in Jacob’s case, and is going to feature the story on his new show! His production crew was in town last week and interviewed Sheriff John Sanner from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Patty and Jerry Wetterling on Wednesday, and Jared and me on Thursday. Here’s a picture of me with the crew — John, Vitaly, and Chris — who came to my house to do the interview last week.


Walsh’s new show will premiere on July 13, 8pm CST. Here’s a snippet from the official press release from CNN’s web site:

The Hunt with John Walsh, a documentary-style, non-fiction program will take advantage of Walsh’s unique statue and perspective in television journalism and will tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large. Through interviews with victims, loved ones and law enforcement and the exploration of new leads, The Hunt will provide the public with salient information to help in the fugitive’s apprehension. (Produced by Zero Point Zero Productions)

If you’re not familiar with John Walsh, I encourage you to Google his name and read his amazing backstory. After his son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in 1981, he went on to become an advocate for victim’s rights and launched America’s Most Wanted in 1988. In the 25 years that AMW was on the air (first on FOX, then on Lifetime), that show managed to track down 1,203 fugitives. That’s an impressive track record.

Watch a video interview with John Walsh…


I’m hopeful that by sharing Jacob’s story once again in front of a national audience, somebody might come forward with a piece of information that could help solve the puzzle. I’ll try and share more information about the show as it becomes available. You can also follow John Walsh on Twitter at @JohnWalshAMW.

Now then… on to another Paynesville incident.

I learned about this story from a 34 year old man who grew up in Paynesville and now lives in Minneapolis. He doesn’t remember exactly what year this incident took place, but he’s pretty sure he was in middle school at the time, so that would put it somewhere between 1990-1992. However, it may also have taken place when he was a little younger, so possibly late 1980s as well.

Here’s his story.

I was waiting for my Dad who picked me up from wrestling every night. He works in St. Cloud, and that night it was taking him longer than usual to get home. Possibly traffic.

I stood out in front of the Paynesville middle school, and sooner than later, I was by myself.

I then saw a long, dark, old green car (possibly brown) with an off white roof. It was driving around the block over and over. It was one of those old cars with a REALLY long hood.

I remember being a little creeped out that it kept circling. I didn’t see it for a while and felt relieved until I saw a figure walking down the sidewalk from the playground area toward me. He got closer and closer, and I could not make a face out because it was dark.

I started to walk away. He got faster. I got faster. Then he got faster again.

I ran to my aunt and uncle’s home who lived about 3-4 houses down from the school and barged into their house. When I peeked out the door, the husky guy briskly walked by and had a black ski mask on.

My dad came shortly after, and we immediately went to the police station.

One interesting note… this young man wrote a paper about his incident when he was in high school. He and his parents have been trying to find it to see if it might include more details or clues, but so far, no luck. (He did mention he got an A on it though!)

Also, here’s one final thing. A lot of people keep asking me who I think did this. The answer is, I don’t know. But since I learned about these Payneville incidents last summer, I’ve been operating under the assumption that one person is responsible for all of these attacks — Jared’s and Jacob’s included. That means the suspect would have to have a tie to all three locations – Paynesville, Cold Spring, and St. Joseph. That narrows the field pretty quickly and leaves us with a short list of strong possibilities. But… who knows. Jared and I continue to talk to people and are grateful for the help we’ve received so far.

Thanks again for following along and for “thinking Jacob” with me.

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Two more incidents

After a much needed break, I’m back in the saddle again. I think by now I have received close to 100 comments, tips, and private messages since our story about the 1986-87 Paynesville incidents first aired on Twin Cities news stations three weeks ago. It was a full time job just trying to field all the comments, pass the information along to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, and follow up with people as time allowed.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone for caring and getting involved. I can’t say enough how kind and accommodating the people of Paynesville have been in helping unravel this mystery. Most are amazed they had never heard about it before, but here’s the thing. The grown-ups may not remember these incidents, but if you were a kid living in Paynesville during that time, you can bet they remember it.

The kids called this guy “Chester the Molestor.” They may not have known the exact details of the attacks, nor even the boys involved… but they knew this. There was a guy who was dressed in black, hiding in the bushes, jumping out, and molesting kids after dark. And they were terrified.

Just to back up for a second… the original newspaper article described five attacks in Paynesville during 1986-1987. According to the article, the attacks happened in the following locations:

  • By the river
  • In the hockey rink area
  • Downtown Ben Franklin area
  • Middle school playground
  • Alley between the middle school and the hospital

Here’s the map again, so you can see where these incidents took place.

View Paynesville Incidents, 1986-1987 in a larger map

In my last article about these incidents, “The 1986-87 Paynesville incidents – an update,”, we had found the victims involved in the attacks that took place by the hockey rink, Ben Franklin, and the alley. (We had also found a new one altogether.) However, we were still missing two… the one that took place by the river, and the one that took place at the middle school playground. We believe we have now found the people involved in the attack that took place at the playground, and another group of young men who were involved in an incident that took place by the river.

Here are their stories.

Middle School Playground
This is most likely the first of the reported attacks and took place during mid-June, 1986. It was “Town and Country Days” in Paynesville, and two boys, ages 12 and 13, were hanging out at the middle school playground with another girl their age. The young man I spoke to remembers that his older sister was coming to pick them up at 10pm, so he figures it must have been around 9:30pm when this incident happened.

The three kids were playing “ghost” which is a game like hide-and-seek. They were all three hiding when suddenly one of the boys started to yell for help. He was hiding behind a “triangle piece of playground equipment” that was located by a side door of the school.

The other two kids went running over to help their friend. When they got there, a guy who was dressed in all black took off running. He was wearing a coat, but they couldn’t say exactly what kind. According to the boy who had yelled for help, this man had snuck up from behind, grabbed him, and shoved his hands into the boy’s front pockets.

The kids were really scared and afraid to walk anywhere in the dark, so they decided to just stay together under a street light and wait for the older sister to pick them up.

The mother of one of the boys took them both to the police station to file a police report. The boys met with two officers, but neither felt like they were believed or taken seriously. The general takeaway from the meeting was that the boys shouldn’t have been out after dark, and the guy was probably just trying to steal the kid’s wallet.

Paynesville Middle School playground. The equipment has been updated over the years, but the side door (on left) is still in the same place.

Paynesville Middle School playground. The equipment has been updated over the years, but the side door (on left) is still in the same place.

By the River
We’re not entirely sure on the date of this attack, but the young man who relayed the information to me believes it was the summer of 1987, which would mean it took place after the article was published in May 1987. If that’s the case, this would… again… be another incident altogether.

There were at least 4-5 boys who went camping that day. The group was camping on the northeast side of the railroad bridge next to AMPI (Associated Milk Producers, Inc.) They hung out there a lot… it was across the railroad tracks, and if you forged through the trees, you came out to a clearing where the river curved a bit and made a shallow sandbar.

They all knew about “Chester the Molestor” at this point, and one of the boys had even been involved in one of the previous attacks (he was the one who had been riding his bike with his friend and went for help when the guy came running out of the pine trees by the hockey rink).

(Note, they are the first to admit this wasn’t the smartest decision they had ever made. However, they were young, rebellious, and feeling invincible. They felt they had strength in numbers and were willing to take the risk.)

It was after dark when one of the boys decided to head back up the hill toward AMPI to grab a can of pop from the pop machine. As he went to jump over a log, he lost his balance and grabbed on to a stump to steady himself.

It wasn’t a stump.

It was a guy… dressed in black… who had been spying on the group.

The boy ran all the way back to the camp site to warn the others. They were terrified, but even worse, they were trapped. The camp was surrounded by water on three sides, and there was only one way out… back up the hill. They decided their best defense was to stay together as a group, so that’s what they did. They sat in a circle with their backs to each other, holding their pocket knives… all night long.

The mother of the boy involved in this incident did bring him into the police station to file a report. However, like most of the others, the report no longer exists due to the statute of limitations on the case. If you have any information regarding these or similar incidents around the Paynesville area during this time, please contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at (320) 259-3700. You may also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

Railroad bridge, looking  east toward AMPI. The camping spot was to the left, on the northeast side of the bridge.

Railroad bridge, looking east toward AMPI. The camping spot was to the left, on the northeast side of the bridge.

AMPI, located next to the Crow River and along the railroad tracks in downtown Paynesville.

AMPI, located next to the Crow River and along the railroad tracks in downtown Paynesville.

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