The remains of Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota boy abducted from a rural road 27 years ago, have been found, his mother told Minneapolis television station KARE in a text on Saturday.
The abduction of the 11-year-old boy led to the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, which requires states to maintain sex offender registries and guidelines.
Unnamed sources told CNN affiliate WCCO and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that a suspect in Wetterling’s disappearance led the FBI to remains that are now being tested for DNA. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI were unable to corroborate that report to CNN Saturday.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement saying, “Today, we continue to offer our love and support, as the Wetterling family finally brings their son home to rest.”
“We are in deep grief. We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way,” the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, a foundation that provides education on the exploitation of children, said Saturday.
Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, told KARE’s Caroline Lowe via text Saturday morning, “All I can confirm is that Jacob has been found and our hearts are broken. I am not responding to any media yet as I have no words.”
Wetterling told CNN in a text, “Our hearts are broken. There are no words.”
Jacob disappeared on a dark road in central Minnesota on the night of October 22, 1989.
Jacob had been at home with his two younger siblings, Trevor, 10, and Carmen, 8, and Jacob’s friend Aaron Larsen, 11, while Patty and Jerry Wetterling attended a dinner party about 20 minutes away.
Wetterling, who lived in rural St. Joseph, his brother and a friend were coming home from a convenience store on bikes and a scooter when a man wearing a stocking mask and holding a gun approached.
The man asked the boys their ages, grabbed Jacob and told the others to run into the woods or else he’d shoot, Jacob’s father has said, recounting what his other son told police.
Since then, no trace of Jacob has been found and no arrests have been made in the case, which was featured on John Walsh’s “The Hunt.”
As news of the disappearance spread, FBI agents and National Guard troops descended on the quaint town of St. Joseph to aid in the search.
Tens of thousands of tips surfaced in the weeks that followed, but none panned out.
Since her son’s kidnapping, Patty Wetterling has become an advocate for families of missing children. After helping create the sex offender registry for Minnesota and subsequently for the nation, she helped build Team HOPE — Help Offering Parents Empowerment — a parent-to-parent mentoring program for mothers and fathers in similar situations.
“Most parents know nothing about child abduction, so when it happens you just scramble for what’s out there,” Wetterling said in 2014.
Jacob would have turned 38 in February.
“Jacob was a fun, active, athletic, kind, 11-year-old boy who loved peanut butter and football,” his mother wrote in 2014. “He was most known for his sense of fairness.”