The past 20 years proves the night back on Oct. 22, 1989, was one of Central Minnesota's darkest. A masked gunman abducted 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling from a rural St. Joseph road, and to this day he remains missing.
Central Minnesotans who remember that fall 20 years ago also wrenchingly recall a grassroots search and police investigation that quickly mushroomed to include the state, the Upper Midwest and even the nation. They also know all too well that few, if any, solid leads turned up then or even in the past two decades.
Now, every day, month and year that passes not only magnifies the loss of Jacob, but the loss of safety and serenity so many residents experienced that dark autumn night.
Yet amid that darkness, one bright shining light gives us hope. That light belongs to Patty and Jerry Wetterling.
Having a child abducted and not knowing that child's fate 20 years later must cause unimaginable grief, pain, fear and emotions only the Wetterlings truly know.
Remarkably, though, through their suffering they have provided hope not just for Jacob's return, but for creating a safer society.
Witness the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, implemented in 1994. It requires states to create a sex offender and crimes against children registry.
And, yes, it works. Just last month it helped authorities find alive Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted 18 years earlier. As we noted then, it is why there is still hope for Jacob.
Of course, Patty Wetterling in particular is the driving force and public face of that hope.
Since her first media exposure as a grieving and shocked mother seeking her missing son, she has championed the cause of protecting children at all levels of government. In the process, she's become an articulate and effective leader in focusing on missing children.
- St. Cloud Times
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