Posts Tagged "St. Joseph Minnesota"

It’s over.

On Friday, September 2nd, law officials discovered the remains of Jacob Wetterling on a farm in Paynesville, Minnesota. Law officials were led there by Danny Heinrich, who was named a person of interest in Jacob’s case back on October 29, 2015 after being arrested on child pornography charges.

After nearly 27 years… it’s over.

MplsStarTrib_9-4-2016I’ve dreamed about this day for years. What would the headlines say? What would the public’s response be? How would the people of St. Joseph react?

Now that it’s here… now that Jacob has finally been found… there is no joy… just deep and profound sadness for this 11 year old boy who touched all our hearts for so many years. Yes, we have answers and, in time, that will bring peace. But for now it all just feels very raw and real.

Truth be told, I’m a wreck.

I was drawn to write about Jacob’s case for reasons I’ll never fully understand. The more I learned, the more I cared. The more I cared, the more I craved answers. Like every other Minnesotan who lived through the horror of his abduction, I wanted to know what happened to Jacob. And with each passing moment, it felt like time and opportunity were slipping away. I thought if I could just get his story out there, people might start paying attention. Maybe they could even add details that might help. More than anything, I just didn’t want people to forget.

I published my first blog post about Jacob’s story on October 23, 2010, one day after the 21st anniversary of his abduction. Read “Where are you Jacob?”…

After three weeks, I wrapped up Jacob’s story and may never have come back to it if it wasn’t for an email I received on January 18, 2013… over two years later. It read:

Hello Joy – My name appears in your articles. I’m working to clear lots of wrong info out there about me. Are you curious or do you care…?
Thanks…. if so…send a tele#?
– Dan Rassier

I wasn’t sure if I should reply or not, but there was one thing I did know. Yes… I cared. So, I emailed Dan back and we agreed to meet at 6:30pm at the St. Cloud Library on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. Had it not been for Dan getting in touch with me and sharing his story, I likely would never have gotten back to blogging about Jacob. I published Dan’s story on February 23, 2013, and since then, I’ve blogged about little else. Read Dan’s story…

This weekend, when I learned that Jacob had been found, I emailed Dan to let him know I was thinking of him. I wanted him to know that, for what it was worth, I had always believed him. I wished him and his family peace… they surely deserve it. He sent a very kind reply which meant a lot to me.

Over the past few days, I have been receiving emails, texts and phone calls from reporters all over the state, and even the country. There is one in particular who deserves a lot of credit in this amazing journey of discovery, and that is Esme Murphy from WCCO. She was the first person to really pay attention to what Jared and I were doing in Paynesville, and she contacted me shortly after I published my first blog post about the Paynesville attacks. It was October 22, 2013… the 24th anniversary of Jacob’s abduction. Not long after, Jared and I agreed to do an interview with Esme, which aired on May 14, 2014. See the interview…

I’d also like to acknowledge the countless others who have played a major role in this journey. I have received thousands of comments and private messages on my blog, along with hundreds of phone calls and texts from people passing along tips or suggestions about the case. I diligently organized and passed them along to law enforcement, never knowing if one of them might turn out to be the “the piece” that solved the puzzle. Thank you to everyone who cared, got involved, and took the initiative to pass those tips along. Who knows what may have been helpful along the way.

But without question, the one person who absolutely made the difference in bringing Jacob home was Jared Scheierl. He was the 12 year old boy from Cold Spring who was abducted and assaulted just nine months before Jacob. When I decided to dig back into this story back in early 2013, I wanted to focus on people who had a direct connection to the case. One of the people I knew I wanted to interview was Jared. I found him through ancestry records and then contacted him through Facebook. I never in a million years thought he would reply to my message. To this day, I am so very grateful that he did. Read Jared’s story…

Jared is one of the kindest and bravest people I know. He has become a good friend, and we have been through a lot together over the past three and a half years. When we first learned about the Paynesville attacks that took place in the late 1980s, it was Jared who willingly put himself out there, reaching out to victims and sharing his own story so that they might, in turn, be wiling to share their own. Without Jared, this story would never have unfolded the way it did. His enthusiasm and dogged determination were contagious. We found ourselves driven to find answers, not only for Jared and the Wetterlings, but also for all those young men who were never truly heard. The more we learned, the bigger it felt. Without knowing why, we were convinced that the Paynesville incidents were somehow important to the bigger picture.

In the end, it all came back to Paynesville… Jared’s hometown. The story started there, and it ended there. Jacob was found in Paynesville… a town just 15 miles up the road from me. Fifteen miles. He was buried in a spot that I have driven past countless times in my lifetime, never knowing that he was RIGHT THERE this whole time. Jacob and Jared were together in the same small town for the past 26 years.

How do you put words to that?

As hard as it is to give any credit to Danny Heinrich in this story, I’m just so incredibly grateful that, in the end, he did the right thing. Because of him, the healing can finally begin for the Wetterling family, and for the entire state. We have hurt, and hoped, and prayed alongside them for almost 27 years. Today, it’s finally over.

The Wetterlings have become like family to me, and I love them dearly. They are good, kind people who have changed the world because of their undying dedication to their missing son. Patty, especially, has worked tirelessly to fight for children’s rights, to educate parents, to train law enforcement, and to spread a message of love and hope that has resonated with us for all these 27 years. She did it for Jacob… Jacob’s Hope.

Today, I continue to pray for the Wetterlings. I’m sure there will be many more hard days to face in the weeks and months to come, but with answers, I hope they can finally start to grieve and heal. I will be forever grateful to them for believing in me.

#ThinkingJacob
#JacobsHope

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25 Years

Wow… where to begin. It’s been such a whirlwind year, and I’ve been overwhelmed trying to decide how to write this blog post. It’s incredibly hard to put into words what the 25th anniversary of Jacob Wetterling’s abduction means to me. But, I definitely have some things to say, so here we go.

This Wednesday, October 22nd, will mark 25 years since Jacob Wetterling was taken at gunpoint from a rural road in St. Joseph, Minnesota. It was just after 9pm, and Jacob was returning home from a local convenience store where he had gone to rent a movie with his friend, Aaron, and his younger brother, Trevor. They were just a few blocks from home when a masked gunman stopped them, ordered them to put their bikes in the ditch and lie face-down on the ground. One by one, they were asked how old they were, then Trevor and Aaron were told, “Run toward the woods and don’t look back, or I’ll shoot.” When they got far enough away and dared to look back, Jacob and the gunman were gone. He has not been seen since.

This past Tuesday, six billboards went up in locations near Jacob’s abduction. They say “STILL MISSING” and show a picture of Jacob in 1989, along with an age-progressed picture of what he might look like today at age 36. They also include the number for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1-800-THE-LOST. Anyone with a tip is encouraged to call the hotline. You may remain anonymous.

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Along with the billboards, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, together with Jerry and Patty Wetterling, the FBI, the BCA, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) gave a joint press conference. Patty and Jerry both spoke, and we were encouraged by the words of John Ryan, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCMEC, who said that in a five year time span, from 2009-2013, over 160 kids had been found who had been missing between 11-20 years.

Wow. Wouldn’t that be something.

The fact that all these agencies are coming to the table after 25 years is both encouraging and hopeful. I think it is a testament to how active this case really has been, especially in the past year.

I also think there’s an interesting phenomenon that has started to occur. I didn’t catch it at first, but it started to gel after I was reviewing some of the comments and messages I’ve received on my blog over the past few years. It seems there’s a common phrase I keep hearing over and over, and it comes from a generation who is just now beginning to realize how much Jacob’s disappearance has impacted their lives. It goes something like this… “Now that I’m a parent myself…”

You see, these are Jacob’s peers who have been talking to me. They’re in their late 30s now, hovering toward that monumental 40th birthday. They’re busy chasing kids, life, and the American dream. But, when they finally get a chance to slow down and reflect for a moment, I think they’re starting to realize something. At this point in their lives, they are now very close to the same age that Jerry and Patty Wetterling were when Jacob was taken. And for them, like all of us, that is an unbearable thought.

But something is different this go-round. This generation thinks and acts differently than any generation before them. They have something that is innate and instinctive to them. It’s called technology… and they know how to use it.

In the past few years (and the last year in particular), I have seen this investigation explode because of the power of the internet. From blogs and forums, to Facebook and Twitter, people are talking and sharing more than ever before. And more than that, they’re demanding answers.

Throughout the past year, I have seen victims reach out to other victims, encouraging each other to come forward and share their stories. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever spoken openly about their experience. It is raw, and emotional, and hugely impactful. And while these memories are deeply painful for all of them, they have agreed to do it for the same reason… because now they are parents themselves.

We admire Patty and Jerry Wetterling for all they’ve done to make this world a better and safer place for our children. In 1990, they started a foundation in Jacob’s name to raise awareness about childhood abduction (now called the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center). They helped pass the Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994 which required states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry. They have reached out to other families of childhood abduction, and in 1998, helped found Team HOPE, a national support group for families of missing children. Today, Patty serves as the Director of Sexual Violence Prevention for the Minnesota Department of Health, and is also the Chair of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For these things and more, we admire and respect the Wetterlings. But it’s more than that. We also see them as parents, just like ourselves, so we grieve for them, hurt for them, and wish so badly there was something we could do to help.

The truth is, Jacob could have been any of our children. He was an 11 year old boy, doing what 11 year old boys do. He was taken from a kind and gracious family who loves him, and who did everything they knew to keep him safe. So, how does a boy like Jacob get taken from a small town like St. Joseph, on a country road that was just blocks from his home?

Not OK.

Not then, not now, not ever.

Jacob, we will never forget you, and we will never stop searching and demanding answers. As Minnesotans, we consider you one of our own… OUR son. Our Jacob.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center reminds you to keep your porch light on this Wednesday, October 22, and to also do something kind that helps build hope in our children. They offer a list of 25 suggestions you might try to honor Jacob and his family.

And, as always, please keep the tips and prayers coming. Thanks for #ThinkingJacob with me.

NEXT: From a former bulldog…

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The suspicious cars…

New here? Start from the beginning…

Sorry for the lapse between blog posts lately. We have a son who just graduated from high school, so things have been a bit crazy here. However, I’m back in the groove and ready to kick things back into high gear.

Another reason this post has taken so long to publish is that it has gone through several revisions. I have worked very hard to build trust with the people whose stories I’m sharing here. That means, before I publish anything, I always encourage them to preview my posts to make sure I have all my facts straight. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, this can be a laborious, time-intensive process that involves several rounds of writing, rewriting, and proofing. In the end though, I think the time and effort are worth it. There is good information here… much of which I had never heard before.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to one of the neighbors who used to live near the Tom Thumb in St. Joseph. Though she wasn’t an eyewitness herself, she remembers hearing about several suspicious cars that were seen in her neighborhood in the days and weeks prior to Jacob’s abduction.

As you can see from the screen shot below, the Tom Thumb (which is now a vet clinic) was located just to the east of a residential neighborhood. At the time, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to see several kids buzzing around on any given night. It was a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood where everyone felt safe.

That is, until October 22, 1989… the night Jacob was abducted.

The Tom Thumb was located in the building where the vet clinic is now located.

The Tom Thumb was located in the building where the St. Joseph Veterinary Clinic is now located. Click photo to see a larger view.

If you have followed this case from the beginning, you may remember there were early reports of a small, red “Chevette” that was seen in the area (and at the Tom Thumb) just prior to Jacob’s abduction. It was also seen over by the Del-Win, where the National Guard Armory is now. When this information was made public, an art student came forward to say he was most likely the person seen driving around the neighborhood in a red car. He had been in the area looking for things to sketch. Police verified his story, then quickly moved on to cover new leads.

However, the neighbor I spoke to wonders if police may have moved on too quickly. If the art student drove a small, red car, then what about the other car (or cars) neighbors had reported seeing? There was one in particular that was darker and larger… possibly maroon… with distinctive tail lights. What ever became of that lead?

Again, I was reminded that, in the days immediately following Jacob’s abduction, all information related to any unfamiliar vehicles in the area was shared with the FBI and police. A few neighbors even gave eyewitness statements, which are included in the official case file.

I wondered if I could take a look at those official statements. So, I contacted Captain Pam Jensen of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department, the lead investigator on the Wetterling case since 1999. She told me that anyone who made an official statement in this case could request a copy of it through the records department at (320) 259-3700. However, for those whose information was included as part of a report but not an official statement, they may be out of luck. However, Captain Jensen said they were welcome to check.

So, without direct access to any official eyewitness statements, I was a bit stuck. I wasn’t willing to put any wrong information out there about these cars, so I decided to do a little digging. I went back and searched a bunch of old newspapers to see if I could find any information about the suspicious cars that had been spotted in the neighborhood near the Tom Thumb.

Lucky for me, I found a fantastic article published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on November 25, 1989 (about one month after the abduction). In the article, authorities are asking for the public’s help in identifying three different cars that were seen around St. Joseph in the days and weeks prior to the abduction.

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St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
November 25, 1989 Section: Metro
Edition: AM Metro Final Page: 8A

3 CARS, DRIVERS SOUGHT IN WETTERLING CASE Wayne Wangstad, Staff Writer

The task force investigating the Jacob Wetterling kidnapping is seeking public assistance in locating and identifying three vehicles and their drivers who were seen at or near the abduction scene before and on Oct. 22, the day Jacob was taken from his St. Joseph, Minn., neighborhood.

Several vehicles drove past Jacob, his brother and a friend while they were going to or returning from a Tom Thumb store near their home.

“We’ve been able to verify the existence of all the vehicles in the area except these three,” FBI spokesman Byron Gigler said. “It’s the type of neighborhood where you don’t get much through traffic because it is, basically, a dead end street.”

The three vehicles all had one item in common – their rear ends apparently had been jacked up. Sightings by witnesses all occurred in the early evening or at night.
“We’re not saying this is our man and this is our car; we’re just saying we need to locate and identify them,” Gigler said.

The task force, composed of the FBI, Stearns County deputies and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents, also released composite drawings of the drivers of two of the three vehicles. An artist’s drawing of the third driver was not available.

The first car is older. It is maroon – the color of a Minnesota State Trooper’s uniform – and has rectangular or square tail lights, and appears similar to a 1976 Pontiac Catalina. Like the other cars, its rear end was jacked up.

FBI agents said the car was seen on 90th Avenue near the Wetterling home about six weeks before Jacob’s abduction and again a week before he was kidnapped at gunpoint. On two occasions, the car was seen parked at night on 90th Avenue, but it left when a resident approached. The driver was seen once during daylight and a composite drawing was made based on that sighting.

The second car is an older smaller car that is about the size of an American Motors Pacer or Gremlin. The car is red with white trim and has large rear tires and a jacked-up rear end. Dealer or logo-style license plates – they may have had red and blue letters on a white background – were mounted on the rear of the car. It was seen a week before the abduction in an area west of the abduction scene.

The third car is a red-orange station wagon with a rear end that may have been jacked up. The car was seen during the day on Oct. 21 or Oct. 22 in the area of Kiwi Court in St. Joseph. A similar car was seen after dark near the abduction scene on Oct. 22, about the time the boys would have been going to and from the store.

Stearns County authorities and the FBI said people with information on the vehicles should call the task force’s 24-hour phone at 612-259-3981. Callers should provide as much information as possible, authorities said.

Illustration:2 Drawings
These are composite drawings of drivers of two of the three cars investigators seek more information about in the Jacob Wetterling kidnapping case.

Copyright (c) 1989 St. Paul Pioneer Press

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CompositeSketches_SuspiciousCars_800x600

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So, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what a 1976 Pontiac Catalina looks like. I was also curious what kind of tail lights a 1976 Pontiac Catalina had. I Googled it and found the following images:

1976 Pontiac Catalina

1976 Pontiac Catalina

1976PontiacCatalina

1976PontiacCatalina-4

1976PontiacCatalina-3

You probably also latched on to the fact that all three of these suspicious cars may have been “jacked up” in the back. What are the chances of that? The year was 1989 after all, not 1979. I wondered what kind of person drove a jacked-up car in 1989. It seems to me it would be a younger “gear-head type”… 20s to 30s vs. 40s to 50s.

Of the three cars described in the article, I also wondered which one had belonged to the art student who was eventually cleared. I may be wrong, but I believe it was the smaller red Geo Metro or AMC Pacer that was driven by the art student. Not sure about this though. I will try and find out. I’m also not sure which of the men in the composite sketches above goes with which car. I’ll try and find that out, as well.

So now… I have to admit… after learning all this information about the suspicious cars that were lurking around the area just prior to Jacob’s abduction, my theory about the case has changed a bit. I was always “of the camp” that believed this was a crime of opportunity, not a carefully thought-out plan carried out by a seasoned stalker. However, now I’m not so sure. I’ll discuss this more in my next blog post.

In the mean time, feel free to share your own thoughts about these cars. Also, if you happened to live in St. Joe at the time and witnessed one or more of these suspicious cars, I’d be especially interested in talking to you.

NEXT TIME: A few answers…

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Dan’s Story

New here? Start from the beginning

I feel like I have been part of something significant this weekend. Bright and early Saturday morning, at 8am, I met Dan Rassier and Kevin the-tire-track-guy at Panera in St. Cloud. The two of them had never met before and were anxious to hear each other’s story, “straight from the horse’s mouth.” What I thought would be an hour long conversation turned into a two hour conversation, and then a three hour conversation. And lo and behold, I wasn’t the one doing any of the talking.

These two men have been put through the wringer. Police and the media seem to have pitted them against each other over the past nine years, stirring up suspicion where none previously existed. So, it’s no surprise they seemed a bit guarded with their words as we began our conversation. But, as they began talking and answering each other’s questions, the cloud of suspicion seemed to lift, and a willingness to share information soon emerged.

Above all, we share a common goal. We want to find out what happened to Jacob. Our hope is that if we can put the facts out there, in order, exactly as they occurred, maybe someone can add to the story. And maybe that someone will have just the piece that will finally solve this 23 year old puzzle.

So, here we go. Let’s start with Dan.

Dan Rassier lives with his parents on the family farm. Their driveway is across the street from the scene of the abduction. Here’s a map from one of my previous posts:

Map of Wetterling abduction

As it happens, Dan’s parents are away on a European vacation, so he is home alone for the week. After teaching a private saxophone lesson earlier that morning, Dan decides to spend his day organizing his extensive record collection. (I wondered why that would be an all-day affair, so I asked him exactly how extensive his record collection was. “Hundreds?” I asked. “Thousands,” he replied. It turns out he has crate after crate of old 33 RPM albums.)

So, after his saxophone student leaves, Dan settles in for a long day of typing. He sits at a desk in his bedroom and decides to open the window because it’s a beautiful fall day… unseasonably warm, with a forecasted high near 70 degrees. He types. And types. And types.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big tan-colored car (possibly a 1972-1978 Monte Carlo with a white vinyl top) comes racing down the driveway. When it reaches the farmyard, the car whips a u-turn (dust flying everywhere, like a stunt car), and goes racing back out of the driveway. He has never seen anything like this happen at their farm before.

Dan isn’t exactly sure what the make/model of the car was, nor is he exactly sure if it had a white vinyl top, but he’s very certain about the color… tan/amber. The car pictured here is a 1978 Monte Carlo that I grabbed off the Internet.

MonteCarlo-1978

As early afternoon yields to late afternoon, Dan decides to take a break from his typing and go for a jog. (Note, Dan is an avid runner and still participates in several races each year.) He takes off through the back fields and heads toward the Del-Win Ballroom which is located immediately north and a bit east of his property. (In those days, the neighborhood that existed just north of Dan’s property was not there; it was all woods at that time.) There was a Polka Fest taking place at the Del-Win that day, and the place was packed.

After running through the Del-Win parking lot and taking note of the Polka Fest, now in full swing, Dan cuts back over to 91st Avenue and heads toward home. He remembers stopping at the farm mailbox and picking up the paper, then continuing down the driveway toward his house. Nothing is out of the ordinary. It’s a beautiful day.

FormerDelWinBallroomLocation

After 23 years, Dan is a bit vague on what time he returned from his jog, but he assumes he showered and probably made something to eat for supper before returning to his typing. At any rate, it’s dark out when he hears his dog, Smokey, start to bark (Smokey is an outside dog). The window is still open, and Dan hears a car coming up his driveway. He shuts off his light so he can see who it is. He’s a little unnerved, wondering if it’s the same car he saw earlier in the day.

It’s a different car this time. This one is small and dark – possibly dark blue or black. It pulls in and makes a u-turn in exactly the same spot as the previous car, and while it’s not moving as fast and furious as that car, it’s still moving along at a pretty fast clip. In the passenger seat, Dan sees a woman, (or possibly a child) staring out the passenger window with his/her hands cupped over his/her eyes. (NOTE, Dan is the first to admit he’s a little fuzzy about his memory of the passenger staring out the car window. Very early in the investigation, within weeks of Jacob’s abduction, he agreed to be hypnotized to see if he could help uncover more information. He’s not sure if his memory of the woman/child in the car was a result of being hypnotized, or if this is something he recalled on his own.) Regardless, Dan is again certain about the color and size of the car… small and dark… possibly a small sedan or hatchback.

I asked Dan if this happens a lot… people turning around in his driveway. No, not really, he says. However, he explains that young couples used to park along their driveway all the time and “make-out.” It seems it was a “Lover’s Lane” of sorts. Often he or his parents would come home after dark and come upon cars parked in their driveway with people inside. They would never see the cars until the headlights came right up on them. (Keep this in mind as we re-visit the “getaway car theory” later in the story.)

Not long after the second car swings through and leaves, Dan gets ready for bed and goes to sleep. He has to work in the morning, so he assumes the time was around 10pm.

He is awakened by the sound of Smokey, the dog, barking again. I ask him whether he heard any sirens go screaming past his house, and he says no, he never heard any sirens. (There may be an explanation for this later in Kevin’s story.) The dog continues to bark, so Dan finally decides to get up and see what’s going on. He looks out the west bedroom window (which faces up the hill toward the woods), and sees several flashlights shining up by the woodpile. He’s concerned that people are stealing wood, so he decides to investigate further and heads downstairs. He leaves the light off and steps outside. Smokey the dog is still barking like crazy and he sees that there are actually SEVERAL people with flashlights down by his woodpile… and they’re not kids. He realizes he’s outnumbered, and decides to call 911.

The 911 operator tells Dan a child has been abducted at the end of his driveway and that the people with flashlights are cops searching for the missing child.

When Dan learns this information, he does NOT go back to bed. He got dressed, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to see if he could help. I asked him if he talked to any of the police officers that night and he said, “Yes, I spoke to an officer on the road, up the hill. I didn’t know who he was for 23 years.” He explains that it was just last December when he went in to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department to request to look at the affidavit they used to execute the search warrant in 2010. He spoke to Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Bechtold who told Dan he was the officer he had spoken to on the road that night. He remembered seeing Dan walking up the hill with a flashlight in hand. (This was never reported before, and proves that Dan was, indeed, home that night.) They speak briefly, and Dan offers to search the outbuildings on his property.

He heads back down the road/driveway and searches the outbuildings. Every one of them. You would think there would be cops everywhere, but Dan said there were not. A helicopter was searching the woods and fields around his house, but as far as he knows, there were no cops who came down into the yard all night… just the few up by the woodpile earlier.

Dan doesn’t know what more he can do, and he realizes he has to work in the morning. It’s very late, he’s tired, and he decides to go back to bed.

Stay tuned. I’ll share Kevin’s story next time.

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Was Jacob’s abduction “a perfect storm?”

I have a few more thoughts about the Jacob Wetterling case. After this, I’m hoping to move on to a new mystery – a happy one with a happy ending. Surely there must be a happy mystery that exists somewhere. If you know of such a thing, let me know.

(New here? Start from the beginning…)

Several people have wondered what the weather was like the night Jacob was abducted. I wondered the same thing, so on the day I drove through St. Joseph a few weeks ago, I made a stop at the St. Cloud Library on my way home. I wanted to check the microfilm for the local newspaper on the day after Jacob was abducted (October 23, 1989) to see if I could find any information that hadn’t been included in recent news reports. Click here to read the article.

3rd quarter moonAs for the weather… here’s the skinny. After making a copy of the October 23, 1989 newspaper article, I rolled back the microfilm to one day earlier so I could look at the weather report from October 22, the actual day Jacob was abducted. It had been a clear, beautiful day for late October, with a high near 70 degrees. The evening sky was clear with a waning moon in its third quarter. That means it was a half moon; the full moon had been one week prior.

That being said, the question rolling around in my head was… even though the boys said they never saw a car, could a car have been parked in the Rassiers’ driveway a little further down, so the boys couldn’t see it in the dark?

In 2003, the investigators discounted the “getaway car” theory when a local resident came forward to admit the tire tracks found by police in the Rassier’s driveway that night were most likely his. But why were authorities so quick to discount this theory and instead, focus on the “local-resident-who-escaped-on-foot theory?” Was it because it was Dan Rassier, himself, who’d been the one to tell police he’d seen a car turn around in his driveway that night, and then speed away at about the same time Jacob was abducted?

If Rassier witnessed the car from inside his house, that must mean the car pulled all the way into his property to turn around. That’s because you can’t see the end of the driveway from the house; it’s hidden by trees/woods. If I understand it correctly, the local resident (Kevin) who inadvertently left his tire tracks in the driveway that night, told Trish Van Pilsum from FOX 9 News that he had simply pulled in, backed up, and driven away. Wouldn’t that mean he didn’t go all the way into the property? So, if Rassier is telling the truth, doesn’t that mean there had to be another car that night… someone besides Kevin? (If you didn’t see Trish Van Pilsum’s interview, read my previous post).

I re-visited this “getaway-car-parked-in-the-Rassier-driveway theory” one more time. Even though Aaron and Trevor said they didn’t see a car that night, could there have been one parked halfway up the driveway, away from the road so the boys couldn’t see it, yet before the curve, where Rassier would have seen it from the house? Could someone have been parked in the Rassiers’ driveway that night, waiting for the boys to return from the Tom Thumb? Was it so dark that night that the boys wouldn’t have seen a car in the driveway?

At first, I thought no way. You’d think a half moon would be pretty bright. Surely if a car had been parked on that driveway, only 20 yards away, at least one of the boys would have seen it. Right? But, here’s something I learned about a third quarter moon. It rises at midnight and sets at noon the following day. That means, at 9:15pm, when Jacob was abducted, there was no moonlight at all. The moon hadn’t even risen yet, so the sky was completely dark.

So… was it a stalker-stranger who abducted Jacob and escaped in a getaway car that he’d stashed in the Rassiers’ driveway? To me, this scenario seems highly unlikely since all the elements of the abduction would have had to have fallen together perfectly. The boys had never been allowed to go to the Tom Thumb after dark before. If a stranger had been stalking Jacob at his hockey tryouts earlier that day, and/or skulking around at the Tom Thumb earlier that afternoon, what are the chances he’d be so lucky that Jacob would come strolling along, out for the first time after dark, on a moonless night, when his parents just happened to be away at a dinner party? A perfect storm? I doubt it.

The person who abducted Jacob KNEW he’d be returning down that dark road within 30 minutes or so. He knew the Tom Thumb plan. It seems that a stalker-stranger who just happened-upon three young boys out after dark would strike while the iron was hot, like in the Cold Spring case. After all, without knowing the boys, or where they were heading, wouldn’t the stalker-stranger logically assume they were just on a one way trip… either back home or to a friend’s house?

However, this person KNEW the boys would be making a return trip to the Wetterling home. He knew where the Wetterling home was, and he waited for their return. If it was someone who saw them at the Tom Thumb picking out a movie, that person had to have known who they were, where they lived, and where they were heading. If he was driving, he would have had to hurry to get ahead of them, stash his car, pull a mask over his head, and position himself in the ditch, all without being seen.

Or, it had to be someone who knew the boys were on their way to the Tom Thumb and knew they’d be returning down that dark road in about a half hour. He knew they’d be RETURNING soon… that they weren’t just on a one-way trip to another friend’s house. Could that person have been outside on that warm, quiet October night and overheard the boys talking on their way to the Tom Thumb?

Aaron Larson, Jacob Wetterling's best friendAs you recall, Aaron (Jacob’s friend) was on a scooter, so they had to have been going pretty slowly. Was someone spying on them, listening to their every word? Didn’t Aaron report that he thought he’d heard rustling in the tall grass, halfway to the Tom Thumb? The Minneapolis StarTribune interviewed Aaron in 2009, on the 20th anniversary of Jacob’s abduction.

Watch Aaron’s 2009 interview here

We know for sure there was another boy, Jared, just one year older than Jacob, who was abducted, molested, and released by a stalker-stranger in Cold Spring… just 10 miles away and 9 months prior. That man was never found, and the similarities between the two cases are striking (i.e., Jared was abducted on his way home after skating at a hockey rink; Jacob was at hockey tryouts earlier that day; the man was concerned about being recognized in both cases; he had a gun and a low gravely voice; and, in both instances, he told the boys, “Run and don’t turn around, or I’ll shoot.”). These facts are hard to deny. Sure sounds like it could be the same guy.

However, they sure have put the heat on Dan Rassier lately, and God help him if he had nothing to do with the case. Yes, his actions on the night of the abduction seem a little weird. But then, why in the world didn’t the police officers search his house or interview him that first night? Also weird.

And really… could a guy like Dan Rassier, an educated man with a Master’s degree and a TEACHER for heaven’s sake, actually do something like this? For 21 years, he’s lived his life under a microscope. If he was guilty of child molestation/abduction, wouldn’t they have found some nasty files on his computer or some kiddie porn in his bedroom? They’ve searched his house three times now… chances are they would have found something incriminating by now. Right?

Confounding. Frustrating. Agonizing!

Let me just end by saying this…

Peace to the Wetterlings, and peace to you, Jacob. If there was something… ANYTHING… more I could do for you, I would. But unfortunately, only two people know what really happened that October night 21 years ago – you and your abductor. So… here’s one last word for you, Mr. Gravely Voice. If you’re still out there, know that it’s never too late to do the right thing. It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness, and it’s never too late to be forgiven. Please, do the right thing.

In the meantime, I’ll keep praying and “thinking Jacob.”

Skip ahead to 2013: Thinking Jacob. Again.

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