ST. JOSEPH, Minn. - It has been 26 years since a central Minnesota boy was kidnapped while riding his bike to the store in a quiet central Minnesota community. That boy, 12-year-old Jacob Wetterling, was never found and nearly three decades later his story and the fact that his abductor has not been identified pains many Minnesotans like an open wound.
"My son was the same age as Jacob at the time, and as a parent you say "wow, how do the Wetterlings get through this?" recalls KARE 11 reporter Allen Costantini.
Costantini is one of a just a handful of reporters working in the Twin Cities in 1989 who are still covering the Wetterling saga. It haunts him, as it does former WCCO crime beat reporter Caroline Lowe, who now lives in San Luis Obispo, California. "He became Minnesota's child," Lowe told KARE 11's Boyd Huppert via Skype shortly after federal authorities named 52-year-old Danny Heinrich of Annandale a person of interest in Jacob's abduction.
"I started crying," Lowe said about her reaction to the news that there may be a possible break that could lead investigators to where Jacob is. "Such an emotional feeling, that this chapter can be coming to an end."
Costantini notes that the Wetterling case, and Patty Wetterling's dedication to the plight of missing children everywhere, has changed the way law enforcement and the community respond when children are reported missing. There are far more happy endings than there were in 1989, a fact that Patty Wetterling certainly takes solace in. And yet her story... Jacob's story... has not seen its final chapter. No matter how it ends, Costantini says the Wetterlings, and Minnesotans who care about Jacob, deserve to know.
"Too long. It's just been too long," he sighed.