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Remains are those of boy kidnapped in 1989, officials say

Jacob Wetterling was 11 when he was kidnapped near his Minnesota home.
Jacob Wetterling was 11 when he was kidnapped near his Minnesota home.
Published Sep. 4, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Remains found in central Minnesota in recent days are those of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was abducted in 1989, authorities said Saturday in an announcement that provided some long-awaited answers to a mystery that has captivated a state for decades and sparked changes in sex offender laws.

Jacob was kidnapped in October 1989 from a rural road near his home in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

In a statement released Saturday, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office said it "confirms that Jacob Wetterling's remains have been located." The statement said that the Ramsey County medical examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains Saturday.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that a person of interest in Jacob's abduction took authorities to a field in central Minnesota last week. The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing case, said remains and other evidence were recovered.

Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling, sent a text message to KARE-TV earlier Saturday, saying that Jacob "has been found and our hearts are broken." She did not immediately respond to calls and text messages from the AP.

Jacob was riding his bicycle with his brother and a friend when a masked gunman abducted him. No one has been arrested or charged in his abduction, which led to changes in sex offender registration laws.

But last year, authorities took another look at the case, and were led to Danny Heinrich, a man they called a "person of interest" in Jacob's kidnapping.

Heinrich, 53, of Annandale denied any involvement and was not charged. But he has pleaded not guilty to 25 federal child pornography charges.