Gunman abducts St. Joseph boy

Published October 23, 1989, St. Cloud Times

By Kirsten Haukebo
Times Staff Writer

St. Cloud Times, October 23, 1989

St. Cloud Times, October 23, 1989

St. Joseph – Authorities continued to search this morning for an 11-year-old-boy who was abducted by an armed, masked man Sunday night.

Jacob Erwin Wetterling was riding his bike home with his brother, Trevor, 10, and an 11-year-old friend at about 9:15 p.m. when a masked man wearing dark clothing came out of a ditch or side road, said Charlie Grafft, Stearns County Sheriff.

The boys had gone to a nearby Tom Thumb store to pick up a video and were riding on 91st Avenue, just southeast of St. Joseph when the man popped up onto the road.

He flashed a handgun and told Trevor in a rough voice to turn off his flashlight, said the boys’ father Jerry Wetterling, [XXXXX] Kiwi Court, St. Joseph.

“He told them to throw their bikes in the ditch and get on the ground, and then he asked how old they were,” Wetterling said. After the boys were laying in the ditch, the man looked at their faces.

The man then grabbed Jacob and told Trevor and the friend, Aaron Larson, to run into the woods or he would shoot them.

The man was on foot and the boys saw no vehicle nearby. The two ran home across a field and reported the abduction to their baby sitter, Trevor said. The baby sitter’s father called 911.

“We weren’t crying because we were in shock,” Trevor said.

Jerry Wetterling said neither he nor his wife, Patty, have received a ransom note or threats and that he had no explanation for the abduction of the second oldest of their four children.

I have no rational, logical idea,” he said. Just in hindthought, I hope it wouldn’t be because I am a chiropractor or because I’m president of the local NAACP or a member of the Bahai faith. I have no enemies and I’ve never been threatened.”

Wetterling, who is white, has been president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for two years. Bahaism, developed in Iran, is a modern religion that stresses universal brotherhood and social equality.

Wetterling said he remained hopeful his son was alive.

“I’m extremely worried, but I’m also extremely optimistic he’s going to be found,” he said.

Friends and relatives gathered at the Wetterlings to support the family. The mood was somber but hectic. I’m just begging for help,” Patty Wetterling said tearfully.

About 35 officers from the Stearns County Sheriff’s department. Tri-County Major Crime Investigation Unit FBI and State Patrol searched the area Sunday night.

A State Patrol helicopter with a search light probed nearby woods and fields and returned about 9 a.m. today. Sheriff’s deputies interviewed neighbors in a door-to-door search for clues this morning.

“There is a possibility he may be dead in the woods or tied up out there or we don’t know what else,” Grafft said.

Police were investigating footprints this morning near where the abduction is said to have occurred.

The Department of Natural Resources used at least six all terrain vehicles to search the area. Twin Cities television stations KARE and WCCO offered use of their helicopters.

A bulletin also was sent to other law enforcement agents, including St. Cloud Police, to look for the boy and his abductor.

Authorities have established a command post at Del-Win Ballroom, 195 88th Avenue in St. Joseph, and will continue the search today, Grafft said.

Jacob Wetterling, a sixth-grader at North Community School, is 5 feet tall and weighs about 75 pounds. He is white, has brown hair and a mole on his left cheek. When he was taken he was wearing a red hockey jacket with an orange vest over it, blue sweatpants and Nike high-top tennis shoes.

Anyone with information about the abduction is asked to call the Stearns County Sheriff’s department or Crimestoppers.
[PHOTO: A State Patrol helicopter searched a wooded area today near St. Joseph for clues in the abudction of an 11-year-old-boy. About 35 law enforcement officers were searching for the boy.]

[PHOTO: The bikes of three St. Joseph boys were found in a ditch this morning along 91st Avenue in St. Joseph. One of the boys was abducted by a gunman Sunday night.]