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Remains Found in Central Minnesota of 11-year-old boy Jacob Wetterling Kidnapped in 1989, say Officials

Jacob was kidnapped from a rural road on Oct. 22, 1989, near his home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis

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FILE - Patty and Jerry Wetterling show a photo of their son Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted in October of 1989 in St. Joseph, Minn., and is still missing, in Minneapolis, Aug. 28, 2009. Patty Wetterling said Saturday that Jacob's remains have been found. Image source: VOA
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Sept 04, 2016: Remains found in central Minnesota in recent days are that of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was abducted in 1989, authorities said Saturday in an announcement that provided some long-awaited answers to a mystery that has captivated a state for decades and sparked changes in sex offender laws.

Jacob was kidnapped from a rural road on Oct. 22, 1989, near his home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

In a statement released Saturday, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said it “confirms that Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been located.”

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The statement says that the Ramsey County medical examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains Saturday.

FILE - The area where 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted in Oct. 1989 in St. Joseph, Minn., shown Nov. 3, 2015. Patty Wetterling, Jacob's mother, said Saturday that his remains have been found. Image source: VOA
FILE – The area where 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted in Oct. 1989 in St. Joseph, Minn., shown Nov. 3, 2015. Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, said Saturday that his remains have been found. Image source: VOA

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that a person of interest in Jacob’s abduction took authorities to a field in central Minnesota last week. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing case, said remains and other evidence were recovered.

‘Our hearts are broken’

Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, sent a text message to KARE-TV earlier Saturday, saying that Jacob “has been found and our hearts are broken.” She did not immediately respond to calls and text messages from The Associated Press.

Jacob was riding his bicycle with his brother and a friend on Oct. 22, 1989, when a masked gunman abducted him from a rural road near his home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis. He hasn’t been seen since.

No one has been arrested or charged in his abduction, which led to changes in sex offender registration laws.

But last year, authorities took another look at the case, and were led to Danny Heinrich, a man they called a “person of interest” in Jacob’s kidnapping.

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FILE - The area where 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted in Oct. 1989 in St. Joseph, Minn., shown Nov. 3, 2015. Patty Wetterling, Jacob's mother, said Saturday that his remains have been found. Image source: VOA
FILE – The area where 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted in Oct. 1989 in St. Joseph, Minn., shown Nov. 3, 2015. Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, said Saturday that his remains have been found. Image source: VOA

Heinrich, 53, of Annandale, denied any involvement in Jacob’s abduction, and was not charged with that crime. But he has pleaded not guilty to 25 federal child pornography charges and is scheduled to go on trial on those counts in October.

The FBI has said previously that Heinrich matched the general description of a man who assaulted several boys in Paynesville from 1986 to 1988. Earlier this year, Heinrich’s DNA was found on the sweatshirt of a 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped from Cold Spring and sexually assaulted just nine months before Jacob’s abduction.

Heinrich was questioned by authorities shortly after Jacob’s disappearance, but he denied involvement.

Court documents say his shoes and car tires were “consistent” with tracks left near the site of Wetterling’s abduction, but couldn’t be ruled an exact match. Authorities also searched the home where Heinrich lived with his father at the time and found scanners, camouflage clothing and a picture of a boy wearing underwear.

Heinrich’s attorney did not respond to emailed requests for comment Saturday.

Jacob’s abduction shattered childhood innocence for many in rural Minnesota, changing the way parents let their kids roam. His smiling face was burned into Minnesota’s psyche, appearing on countless posters and billboards over the years. Each year, Minnesota residents were asked to keep their porch lights on for Jacob’s safe return.

Kept hope alive

Patty Wetterling always kept hope her son would be found alive. She became a national advocate for children, and with her husband, Jerry Wetterling, founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to help communities and families prevent child exploitation.

In 1994, Congress passed a law named after Jacob Wetterling that requires states to establish sex offender registries.

Officials with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center posted a statement on its website Saturday, saying they are in “deep grief.”

“We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way,” the statement said. “Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished. … Jacob, you are loved.” (VOA)

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Over 100 ‘Chibok Girls’ Rescued From Boko Haram Militants Restart Education in Nigeria

The abductions had sparked worldwide outrage and a "Bring Back Our Girls" movement that gained supporters in the United States, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

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Chibok girls entertain guests during their send-forth dinner at A Class garden in Abuja, Nigeria. The girls will commence a special foundation program at American University of Nigeria Yola .VOA

Nigeria, September 21, 2017 : More than 100 ”Chibok girls” released by Boko Haram militants, have begun a new phase of their lives. They have started taking classes at the American University of Nigeria after months of rest and recovery under the care of the Nigerian government.

The girls had been expected to start at the university in the city of Yola early next month, and the government threw them a send-off party last week at their rehabilitation center in the capital, Abuja; but, the chairman of the Chibok parents’ association, Yakubu Nkeki, said the start date was moved up because the school year had already begun.

Boko Haram
Some of the 106 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian town of Chibok, are seen dancing joyfully during the send-forth dinner in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 13, 2017. (VOA)

“I went with them to the school until they were handed over to the school authority,” Nkeki told VOA’s Hausa service on Tuesday. “Since the school has already started, it was decided that it is best for them to go straight to school so they don’t miss too many classes. They were already starting late.”

At the send-off party, the minister for women’s affairs and social development, Hajia Jummai Alhassan, said the girls will start remedial classes at AUN to prepare them for undergraduate studies in any field of their choice, to be paid for by the federal government.

Boko Haram
Some of the gifts packaged to be given to the 106 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian town of Chibok, are seen during the send-forth dinner in Abuja (VOA)

AUN was already educating 24 girls who escaped Boko Haram shortly after the Islamist radical group, notorious for killing thousands of Nigerians, kidnapped more than 250 students from a secondary school in the Borno state town of Chibok in April 2014.

The abductions sparked worldwide outrage and a “Bring Back Our Girls” movement that gained supporters in the United States, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

The girls who entered the university this week spent 30 to 37 months in Boko Haram captivity before the militants released them in two groups, in October 2016 and May 2017, following negotiations with the Nigerian government.

U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), an early supporter of Bring Back Our Girls, met the girls in Abuja shortly before they left the city and told VOA the former captives generally seemed to be in good shape; but, she said that according to the girls’ caretakers, this followed a long period of medical treatment and psychological therapy.

Boko Haram
In this file photo taken from video released by Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist network, May 12, 2014, shows missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. (VOA)

“Can you imagine being held captive with terrorists, men who frighten you every single day for three years? When you are released, you are not normal, your psyche is not too good. They had to debrief them and help them,” Wilson told VOA.

Wilson said she was told that some girls are also recovering from bullet wounds, machete wounds and snake bites.

ALSO READ Boko Haram Refugees Raped by Nigerian Troops and Police, says Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Wilson said that contrary to some reports, the girls have seen their families since being released; but, she endorsed the government’s decision to keep the girls together in rehab instead of returning them to their homes.

“Because these girls had been together so long, to separate them would have traumatized them in my estimation. I think the decision to keep them together was the best thing they could have done,” she said.

More than 100 girls from Chibok remain in Boko Haram captivity, three-and-a-half years after they were taken.

At the send-off party, Women’s Affairs Minister Alhassan expressed optimism the rest of the girls will be freed.

“I assure you that by the grace of God, we will have our remaining girls released,” she said. (VOA)