New Technology, Resources Have Emerged Since Wetterling Abduction in 1989

New Technology, Resources Have Emerged Since Wetterling Abduction in 1989

September 21, 2018 12:47 PM

Alison Feigh remembers one of the first fundraisers the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center undertook, and the reason behind it.

"It was for a fax machine so pictures of missing kids could be faxed out to help spread the word," she said. "Now there are Amber Alerts and text messages. Everyone has iPhones, so the ability is there to get word out and raise awareness in very different ways."


Such new technology is a big part of what's changed since that tragic night in October 1989 when 11-year-old Jacob was kidnapped while biking home from a convenience store in St. Joseph with his younger brother and a friend.

RELATED: Jacob Wetterling Investigation Files to be Released Thursday

His abduction remained an unsolved crime for almost 27 years until Danny Heinrich - a longtime person-of-interest in the case - confessed in 2016 to abducting and murdering Jacob that night, leading authorities to a pasture near Paynesville where his remains were discovered.

KSTP's Breaking News Coverage: Sources: Jacob Wetterling's Remains Have Been Found

The now-closed investigative file will be released to the public Thursday in St. Cloud, providing new insights into a case that for 29 years now has drawn national attention and raised awareness when it comes to issues surrounding missing and exploited children.

"Everybody old enough can remember exactly where they were when it happened," said Feigh, the program director at the center, founded in 1990 by Jacob's parents Jerry and Patty and others in an effort to prevent crimes against children and advocate for families impacted."

"It's one of those moments that is seared into your brain," Feigh continued. "You can remember where you were and how you felt. It had such emotional impact."

RELATED: Wetterling Family: 'Changes are Still Needed' Ahead of Investigative File Release

Feigh, a classmate of Jacob's, said his abduction served to galvanize many people.

"You had people saying, 'I'm a parent and this is what I'm going to do to protect my children;' or people stepping up and saying, 'This is how I'm going to advocate on behalf of missing children,'" she said. "Or, 'This is what I plan to do to help prevent what happened to Jacob from happening to another kid.'"

There remains more to be done. Numbers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension show that at as of Aug. 31 in the state, there were 309 active missing person reports for those ages 18 and under (at the time they were reported missing).

KSTP Missing Minnesotans Series

That includes all missing person reports (runaways, etc.), not just stranger abductions, as was the case with Jacob, and the BCA stressed that the number is fluid and can change by the day.

But given the BCA said around 8,000 juveniles go missing in Minnesota in a given year, the recovery rate is high.

Though everyone involved would like to see it reach 100 percent.

"We'd like to work our way out of a job," Feigh said. "That's the ultimate goal."

The Wetterling Files

For now though, through the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, parents and other family members going through the trauma of a missing child have great access to support.

"One of the projects I'm most passionate about is our sibling survival guide," Feigh said. "And the Wetterling siblings helped write that.

"We can always do a better job in all sorts of areas, but it's like Patty always says ... hope is a verb. You don't just sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to go out and take steps to start moving things that way."

Resources on Missing People: 


Frank Rajkowski

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