MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One week after Jacob Wetterling‘s killer confessed in court, we’re hearing from a blogger and a survivor who Patty Wetterling went out of her way to thank.

Last Tuesday shortly after Danny Heinrich’s chilling confession she said.

“I want to say one shout out to Jared and Joy,” Patty Wetterling said last Tuesday after Danny Heinrich’s confession. “Jared had the courage to stand up and say, ‘This happened to me, and there are others.’ And they found the others.'”

Joy Baker and Jared Scheierl first sat down with WCCO-TV in 2014:

Part 1: New Developments Revealed in Jacob Wetterling Abduction Case
Part 2: Abduction Victim Speaks Out On Wetterling Case

Their theory at the time: The person who kidnapped and sexually assaulted Jared and other boys in the late 1980s was the same person who snatched Jacob. Law enforcement repeatedly told them they were wrong.

“Yes, it’s true, and it’s disheartening,” Joy said.

Their theory ultimately led to a cold case review of the Wetterling kidnapping, and Danny Heinrich. But this is the story of how a blogger and a survivor never gave up.

“This was scary,” Baker said. “This was traumatic horrifying stuff.”

It was the summer of 2013. Jared agreed to work with Joy on one condition.

“This man had threatened my life directly. I do not want my name associated with this. I have children, and they’re number one — their safety is number one,” Jared said. “This guy could still be out there.”

Jared Scheierl and Joy Baker (credit: CBS)

Jared Scheierl and Joy Baker (credit: CBS)

It was just after that in 2013 that Joy found a 1987 article in the archives of the Paynesville Press that proved a turning point.

“I called Jared right away,” she said.

The article detailed a series of unsolved sexual assaults on young boys in the area.

“This guy is telling people, ‘Don’t look back or I’ll blow your head off,'” Joy said.

“Twenty-five years later, I was learning this from Joy,” Jared said.

Joy reached out to Stearns County Sheriff’s investigators.

“They asked me to send them the article,” she said. “They weren’t aware.”

But the Stearns County Sheriff’s department also wasn’t buying Joy and Jared’s theory that the Payenesville cases, Jared’s case and Jacob’s case were connected. Starting in 2004, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and Stearns County Sheriff had a new theory — that Jacob’s kidnapper was on foot, not in a car.

“They had told me ‘We don’t believe yours and Jacob’s cases are connected,” Jared said.

In a recent statement, the BCA denied ever having focused solely on the theory that Jacob’s kidnapper was on foot.

“It got frustrating so many times,” Joy replied.

From the fall of 2013, Joy and Jared spent hundreds of hours tracking down leads and finding the Paynesville victims.

“I knew instantly these guys are associated and that this is the right direction,” Jared said.

So in 2013 and 2014, how many times did Jared and Joy contact Stearns County authorities?

“I’d say sometimes three times a week,” Jared said.

“Sometimes three times a day,” Joy added.

Through 2013 and early 2014, Joy blogged the details of their findings, and in May of 2014 after months of requests, Joy and Jared agreed to an interview on WCCO-TV.

“You were the first person to step up and say ‘This is a big deal,'” Joy said.

Our 2014 stories with Joy and Jared also featured an interview with Patty Wetterling.

“You interviewed Patty who said, ‘This could be the guy. We never heard of the Paynesville cases,’ and that was so meaningful,” Joy said.

In September of 2014 Jared and Joy were featured on John Walsh’s CNN show the “The Hunt.” The FBI says it was the Walsh special that lead them to request a first-ever cold case review of the entire Wetterling case in November 2014.

It was that review that lead to a new investigation of the man who we now know — Danny Heinrich. Back in early 1990, Heinrich was a suspect not only in Jacob’s and Jared’s cases, but the Payesville cases, too.

“We had pretty much been told, ‘Paynesville stuff — old news. Not looking into that anymore,'” Joy said. “To find out that was important and relevant — it just really made me feel good.”

Both Joy and Jared say they share the frustration that the Payesville cases were not thoroughly investigated back then, or now.

“There was no justice in their sense. They were not recognized. They were not deemed credible,” Jared said.

That’s why last Friday Jared chose to be part of a tribute before the Paynesville High football game that honored not just Jacob and Jared, but the Paynesville victims whose forgotten stories helped bring Jacob home.

The Stearns County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment. Both Joy and Jared say they do not blame law enforcement.

Joy Baker’s advice to others who find themselves fighting for something when everyone says you are wrong: “Trust your gut.”

Jared Scheierl’s advice: “Find a blogger to tell your story.”

Esme Murphy

Comments (10)
  1. Shame says:

    Shame on both of you for trying to take full credit of reopening the case and finding Jacob. The case was never closed. I think the true heroes in this case are the investigators who did all the work and never gave up. Its supposed to be about Jacob and your trying to make it all about you. Pathetic

    1. T says:

      To “Shame” I’m left in aww of your ridiculous comment!!!!! Jared was a victim also so how dare you sit there and say he was trying to take full credit. Yeah, cuz people want credit for being sexually assaulted. You are a sick individual and honestly you’re the one who is pathetic. These cases were connected so without DNA testing from Jared’s case, Jacob’s case wouldn’t be solved!!!!! Dumb, you are!!!

    2. The investigators in this case seem to my mind rather a lack lustre crew of Hill Billys, and to try to claim some masterly plan was a foot is ridiculous. 27 years and then they had to have their arm twisted half way up their collective backs to re-open the case, it’s a disgrace. I am unfortunately aware that this sort of police work is unfortunately NOT uncommon in America, in the case of John Wayn Gacy it took thirty three dead boys before someone had the gumption to check on computer and find Gacy’s past convictions.Perhaps the least said the soonest mended. It may seem rather a hard thing to say but I incline to think that I would feel safer with a scout partrol and save on the rates.

    3. Your comment is at one and the same time ignorant and hurtful . If you had taken the time to read the history of this case properly you would be aware that Jared was approached by a third party to share his details, and it’s a very good job that the lady concerned made this approach, she linked everything together and presented a case that could not be brushed aside, God knows for how much longer this affair would have dragged on had it been left to the established force. I have been in Jareds position as a boy and it takes a lot of deep breaths and courage to talk about what happened. According to his family he was in hysterics when he finally got home. Those of us that have travelled this road realise that talking about the past brings it back to life whilst reducing you to the same terrified little boy you so wish to leave behind, you don’t do it lightly.

  2. missalexmoen says:

    This comment is for the editor of this article: 1. “Led” is the word you want. It is the past tense of “lead”. 2. Typo on “Paynesville” toward the end.

    Come on.

  3. Chief Wiggum says:

    The Stearns County Sheriff Dept was not clueless about what happened to Wetterling, we were simply biding out time before making an arrest. We knew it was Danny Heinrich all along. We were simply waiting to spring our trap after 27 years. We figured that by waiting over 25 years to arrest him we would catch him off guard. Sending Patty Wetterling to talk to her neighbor with a wire on in 2010 wasn’t just a complete wild goose hunt, it was a diversionary tactic meant to keep Heinrich guessing so we could arrest him several years later.

  4. I Chief Wiggum,
    You weren’t clueless???? So you wait 27 years to solve this case and not give the Wetterling’s the answers they needed.I know you need concrete in formation but if this were my missing child, I would not want to wait 27 years, As far as I can understand Jared and Joy were doing some great detective work behind the scenes. How sad this had to take so long.

    1. To Chief Wiggum ( if that really is your name ) Frankly I don’t believe you. It’s easy to say that you had a master plan now that someone else has solved the case. I don’t think you have the calibre needed for a job of this description and it’s my view you should resign.