PAYNESVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — Tonight, Jacob Wetterling’s parents asked for leads in their son’s case and tried to bring healing over some other cases.
Jacob was 11 when a masked gunman kidnapped him in 1989. No one has seen Jacob since. Now, authorities are exploring whether a string of sexual assaults against boys around Paynesville in the 1980s are connected.
Danny Heinrich, 52, lived in Paynesville when Jacob disappeared. He is charged with possessing child pornography, and police say he’s a person of interest in the Wetterling case.
Tonight, one Paynesville victim told our Nina Moini if police had more seriously investigated those earlier cases, the story may have ended differently.
“At least we made it home,” Troy Cole said.
Now at 42 years old, Troy Cole says he still looks over his shoulder when he leaves his house. It’s just a block away from where he says he was assaulted by a man in 1986 in Paynesville.
“I was the only one he took something physically from, that was my hair. He took material things from everybody else,” Cole said.
He says since the news of Danny Heinrich’s possible connection to his attack and Jacob Wetterling’s abduction came to light, his life and Patty Wetterling’s have been connected in chaos.
“Where is Jacob? If he’s the guy there’s a lot that fits but some that doesn’t,” Patty Wetterling said.
The Wetterling’s met with the people of Paynesville Sunday night, and some survivors of attacks.
Court documents have revealed a former Paynesville police chief told investigators to look into Heinrich in 1990, calling Heinrich the chief suspect in the Paynesville attacks on young boys around Jacob’s age.
“I gave a statement the night it happened to a cop here, then 27 years later I finally get a call from a detective asking about it,” Cole said.
Cole said he feels the survivors of Paynesville attacks were ignored by authorities for years.
“The chief now has said that will not happen again,” Patty Wetterling said.
Sunday night, Patty Wetterling asked the people of Paynesville to look forward with her.
“We still need our answers. We do not know this man but many people in that room do,” Patty Wetterling said.
Hoping bringing more of their stories to light can help them heal, and bring authorities closer to finding out who took Jacob and where he is.
“We dream how the world should be, where the children are safe, where the children are free but we know if it’s to happen we must make it so,” Patty Wetterling said.
They are questions Patty Wetterling has asked for 27 years.
Because of a statute of limitations, Troy’s attacker can’t be prosecuted, but he says he hopes Jacob’s will be. Danny Heinrich has long denied involvement with these cases.