Stearns County Set to Release Wetterling Investigative File to Public

September 20, 2018 05:48 AM

The investigative file associated with the case of Jacob Wetterling's kidnapping and death will be released to the public Thursday.

Jacob was 11 years old when he was abducted, and later killed, while riding his bike with his brother and a friend.

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The case had remained a mystery to Minnesotans for nearly 30 years, up until 2016 when Danny Heinrich confessed and led investigators to Jacob's remains.

The investigative file has been controversial since the investigation was closed.

The Wetterling Files

The file was expected to be released more than a year ago, however, it was involved in a legal battle. The Wetterling family filed a lawsuit, arguing information related to their family should be kept private and had no impact on the investigation.

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

However, advocates for government transparency and news organizations, including 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, asked to be allowed to intervene in the court case. Under Minnesota law, closed criminal investigations are considered public information with limited exceptions.

A judge ruled to make the documents public.

University of Minnesota professor Jane Kirtley said public access to the records is not just a matter of state law, it's also one of transparency.

"We know in the broad sense what the outcome was but we also know it took many many years and basically took essentially a lucky break where the perp finally chose to go public with his actions. What if that hadn't happened? We could still have an unsolved crime here and I think its worth asking why. What happened?"

The Stearns County Sheriff's Office said the documents are set to be made public just after 10 a.m.

Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.com for the latest.

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Jonathan Rozelle & Rebecca Omastiak

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