GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The remains of Jacob Wetterling have been found, according to his mother, Patty.
Patty Wetterling told KARE 11'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.”
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office says the Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic odontologist have confirmed that the remains are that of Wetterling. They say authorities are reviewing and evaluating new evidence in the case and expect to be in a position to provide more information early next week.
Patty Wetterling took to Twitter Saturday afternoon saying, "Our family is drawing strength from all your love & support."
Our family is drawing strength from all your love & support. We're struggling with words at this time. Thank you for your hope. #jacobshope— Patricia Wetterling (@pattywetterling) September 3, 2016
The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center released a statement on its Facebook page saying, "We are in deep grief. We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way ... Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished. It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope."
Wetterling disappeared in October of 1989 after he was on a bike ride home from a convenience store near his home. Wetterling, who was 11 years old at the time, was kidnapped by an armed masked man who approached him, his brother and a friend on a rural Stearns County road. The man threatened the other two boys at gunpoint and told them to run into the woods and never look back -- or they would be shot.
Despite an intensive investigation and non-stop efforts by Patty Wetterling and her husband Jerry to keep Jacob's case in the public eye, he has never been found -- until this possible development.
Authorities arrested 53-year-old Danny Heinrich of Annandale last fall, and declared him a "person of interest" in the Wetterling abduction. They recovered books of child pornography, and a DNA sample tying Heinrich to the kidnapping and sexual assault of another Stearns County boy from the same time period of Jacob's abduction. No charges can be filed in that case, however, as the statute of limitations has passed.
David Heinrich, Danny's brother, told Lowe that he learned about Wetterling's story Saturday morning.
"I want the Wetterlings to know I had no idea," a very emotional David Heinrich said to Lowe. "My prayers are with them. I am happy for them that they know, not that he’s passed, but at least they have closure."
Danny Heinrich remains incarcerated, awaiting trial next month on child pornography charges.
Last October DNA evidence conclusively linked Danny Heinrich to a January 1989 abduction and assault on Jared Scheierl. All along, investigators have believed the Wetterling and Scheierl abduction cases may be linked.
Saturday morning, Scheierl told KARE 11's Karla Hult, "My heart goes out to the Wetterling family in all of this.”
Dan Rassier, a Cold Springs music teacher and neighbor to the Wetterling family, told Lowe on Saturday the news of Wetterling's remains brings mixed emotions.
“It’s a very sad situation, and I feel for the Wetterling family," he told Lowe. "It’s a miracle they found his remains, but I’ve always hoped that Jacob would be found alive.”
Rassier came under a cloud of unwanted attention when authorities dug up his family farm and searched the farmhouse and as well as Rassier's bedroom, looking for information in the Wetterling case. The night the masked gunman took Jacob, it all happened near the Rassier's mailbox.
"I had no idea what was happening up by the mailbox," Rassier said in 2010, in a two-part interview with KARE's Julie Nelson.
Still, he was named a "person of interest" and has long maintained his innocence for decades. Rassier was home when Jacob went missing but told Nelson, he had "absolutely nothing to do with the disappearance."
Rassier said he was interrogated more times than he can remember