Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tuesday marks 24 years since Jacob Wetterling was abducted at gunpoint near his St. Joseph, Minn., home.
And his mother, Patty, said she’s still hopeful her son will be found, as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a photo of what 35-year-old Jacob could look like.
The 11-year-old was abducted around 9 p.m. nearly a quarter-century ago as he was riding his bike with a brother and friend. A masked gunman ordered the boys to stop and then took Jacob.
Since the abduction, Patty has become a national crusader for advances in both law enforcement and community responses to missing children.
She spent the day quietly surrounded by her family.
“It really is an important day to reflect,” she said.
Patty has increasingly channeled her and her family’s grief to help other missing children. She founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and is on the board of the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children. She draws strength from the fact that Jacob’s story still makes news.
“It warms my heart that 24 years later people still care, that they are still searching and they will still call in,” she said.
Her grandchildren have brought new joys. She said Jacob is always with her.
“Jacob had such an amazing spirit,” she said. “We don’t have a clue. We have no idea who did this and where he is. We have no proof that Jacob is not alive. Therefore, I will always hope.”
She said there’s also great comfort in the stories of missing kids found years later, like the three girls in Cleveland.
In honor of the anniversary of Wetterling’s disappearance, the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center asked residents to leave a porch light on Tuesday to remember the day he went missing — Oct. 22, 1989.
In addition to keeping your light on, the organization is also asking people to help a neighbor, talk to children about safety, support a local child-serving organization or other ways to help honor Wetterling, and keep the hope alive.
Leads on the Wetterling case can be called into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-THE-LOST.