MINNEAPOLIS - "This is not the ending that any of us wanted," said Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner.
For the men and women who investigated the case since the first 911 call in 1989, Danny Heinrich's court confession that he'd abducted, molested and murdered Jacob Wetterling was an emotional final chapter.
"Twenty-seven years is a very long time for an investigation to remain open and active," said the FBI's Richard Thornton.
It was filled with false leads – and intense pressure.
"If you asked each one of us, we would say the last 10 days have been the most difficult professionally in our lives," U.S. Attorney Andy Luger told reporters.
Just a month before Danny Heinrich's federal trial on child pornography charges was scheduled to start, prosecutors got word that Heinrich might be willing to talk about the Wettering case in return for a plea bargain.
"From everything we knew Heinrich was volatile and unpredictable man who could want to talk one minute – and clam up the next," Luger said.
So, with the Wetterling family's permission, they quickly offered Heinrich a deal. Then they waited and hoped.
"With every passing day we were concerned that this volatile man would change his mind," Luger explained.
Last Wednesday, Heinrich led investigators to a location in rural Stearns County where they discovered a red jacket like the one Jacob was wearing when he was kidnapped.
"Each of us working on this case stopped in our tracks. I will never forget that moment Wednesday afternoon," Lugar said.
But the case still wasn't solved. It took two more days before they actually found Jacob's remains.
"We never stopped looking for Jacob," said Sterns County Attorney Janelle Kendall. " And none of us will ever forget the moment that we found him."