February 20, 2018 04:56 PM
The news about the break in the Jacob Wetterling case this past summer has given the families of other missing children hope they may finally get answers, too.
Christopher Kerze disappeared from his family's home in Eagan in 1990 and hasn't been seen since.
Of all the children missing in Minnesota, Chris Kerze is the only one featured in a music video.
"Runaway Train" by Minneapolis' own Soul Asylum showed the photographs and names of missing children. The video was released three years after Chris drove away from his parent's home in Eagan.
"Of course it gave us hope” Chris' mother Loni Kerze said. “Anything that got the message out there that you're missing your son and you want him back, that's good."
The story of Chris Kerze's disappearance is one of pain, intrigue and mystery.
The last time Loni and Jim Kerze saw their son was Friday, April 20, 1990. They left in the morning, but 17-year-old Chris said he was sick and stayed home from school. That night he was gone and so was the family van.
The next day they reported him missing.
On Sunday, the van was found more than 200 miles away, north of Grand Rapids at the Laurentian Divide wayside rest on Highway 38.
On Monday, the Itasca County Sheriff's Office searched the area with dogs.
Soon after, Jim Kerze says a letter arrived from Duluth. "That was his last communication with us. And basically it said I'm not coming home."
Then, Jim says the phone calls began. "Now there was a person who called us from northern Minnesota, who hedged around the fact he picked up somebody on Highway 38 around that time and they took him to Duluth."
Within a week, they started getting hang up calls at the house. "So we'd pick up the phone” Jim said. “There would be a noise in the background, often it would sound like a party. We would try to talk and there would be a hang up."
Loni believes it had to be their lost son on the other end of the line. “And that's what I'm guessing, because we never had calls like that before. And his best friend, our neighbor kid, was also getting hang up calls," she said.
The Kerze’s even worked with police to put a tracer on the phone to track the calls, but no luck.
The hang-up phone calls went on for an agonizingly long six months. Then they stopped, and seemingly, so did leads in the investigation, for decades.
That changed a year ago with the bombshell news that a person of interest had been named in the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling. Jim says it gave them optimism. "Yes, in that respect it gives you renewed hope. You know, 26 years after the fact that still, it's still possible."
The Jacob Wetterling case has families like the Kerze's asking law enforcement all over the country to take another look at missing persons cases.
Officer Aaron Machtemes is with the Eagan Police Department.
"We never give up. Any small clue, any tip. At one point we were looking in Canada, we were pouring over maps in Canada to try and find some type of lead. So any little piece of information can help break these cases and lead us to an answer.”
Recently, the Eagan Police Department returned to the Grand Rapids area to hand out a new flyer from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It includes a new age progression picture of what Chris might look like today.
"Our investigator was up there handing out posters, talking with hunters in the area. Alerting them to the items that we are looking for"Machtemes said.
Chris had a 20 gauge Mossberg bolt action shotgun with him. And he was wearing a unique watch with a zebra pattern on the wristband.
"We want people's memories to be jogged” Machtemes added. “Think about that time period of 1990, or even now, to try and remember some of the items he had with him."
It's an opportunity the Kerze's are seizing to try and find their son. Loni’s heart still aches after 26 years.
"I want him to know that we still love him. And I'm still looking for him. I want to open the door and hear him say Mom, and I’ll say Chris, and just give him a big hug."
Jim says they are hoping for some magic to happen.
"We will know nothing about what happened to Christopher until, kind of, like the Wetterlings, magically we will know something and possibly everything.”
"You know you find a new normal and you go on,”Loni said. “And you've got grandkids that make you happy and everything. But one, in your heart you always have this sense of something is really, really missing."
The Soul Asylum "Runaway Train" music video ends with the plea, "If you've seen one these kids, or you are one of them, please call."
Chris Kerze's parents are waiting for another call, and looking forward to the day when they see him again.
The Soul Asylum "Runaway Train" music video debuted in May of 1993 and was directed by Tony Kaye.
The original video featured 13 missing children, including Christopher Kerze of Eagan. It received heavy airplay on MTV and VH1 during its duration.
Several versions of the video were made. Depending on what country the video was being broadcast, they would show children from that area who are missing. The band had an agreement with families that when/if a case was resolved they would change the video and use new faces.
There were three original versions of the video in the United States, totaling 36 missing children shown. According to Kaye, 26 missing children were found after being featured in the video.