By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time in more than eight months, Patty Wetterling is speaking out about how she and her family are coping.

She spoke after addressing a national convention of Amber Alert coordinators in Bloomington

Wetterling was emotional as she addressed the convention, including a Department of Justice official who provided help during the first year Jacob was missing.

Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance in October 1989 was a mystery that remained unsolved for 27 years — until last fall when Danny Heinrich confessed in federal court last year that he had kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Jacob.

In the 20 years Amber Alerts have been in effect, 881 children have been rescued, including 33 in Minnesota — a success for which many at the conference said Patty and her husband Jerry deserve a great deal of credit.

“I am sort of overwhelmed by all that you do and all that this conference represents, so I thank you,” Patty Wetterling told the conference.

Wetterling said it was like a family reunion, seeing the familiar faces.

“So many of those people in that room I have known for almost 27 years,” she said.

She was subdued as she reflected on the nine months that have passed since Danny Heinrich led authorities to the Paynesville farm where he buried Jacob.

“I don’t know, everything changed last fall and I am sorting it out — where I go next, move forward,” she said.

After nearly 27 years of searching, the hunt for Jacob ended in a tumultuous two weeks last fall with an horrific courtroom confession by Heinrich.

“The healing is going to take some time, and that is what we have been doing — taking some time for each other and sorting,” she said.

Her joy is doing what she did with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center — working with those who help find missing children.

“One of my favorite things I do is law enforcement training,” she said.

Wetterling lit up when talking about the Amber Alert system, which has brought 881 children home to their families.

“Isn’t it amazing? These kids came home, it’s an incredible program,” she said.

The Wetterlings, citing personal privacy concerns, have filed a  lawsuit against Stearns County seeking to block the release of some of the files in Jacob’s case. Patty Wetterling said she did not want to comment on legal matters.

The Wetterlings’ attorney Doug Kelley says the number of files the Wetterlings want blocked are 0.003 percent of the thousands of pages Stearns County plans to release.

An attorney representing a number of Twin Cities media organizations intervened opposing the Wetterling’s position Tuesday. WCCO-TV is not one of those media organizations.

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