The 25-Year-Old Unsolved Kidnapping that Led to a Significant Increase in the Recovery of Missing Children

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Jerry and Patty Wetterling with photo of son Jacob (photo: Craig Lassig, AP)

If there is any good news to come of a 25-year search for a missing child, it is the progress that’s been made since in finding abducted children.


In 1989, an 11-year-old boy named Jacob Wetterling was abducted in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Wetterling, his brother Trevor and a friend were stopped by a masked gunman. Jacob was abducted and the other two were freed.


Jacob’s parents, Jerry and Patty Wetterling, have not seen him since. They have dedicated themselves to not only finding their lost child, but also helping other parents see their children come home safely.


While Patty Wetterling has “helped change the landscape of missing children, from sex offender registries to police training,” according to the Star Tribune, the rate of missing children found has increased significantly—from 62% in 1990 to 97% today, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports.


The center’s president, John Ryan, told the newspaper: “More long-term missing children are being recovered today than ever.” More than 160 children missing for 11 to 20 years were recovered from 2009 to 2013, the center says. Forty-two children missing for more than 20 years were found during this span.


Some of the more famous recoveries include Elizabeth Smart (found after nine months), Shawn Hornbeck (located after four years) and Jaycee Dugard (recovered after more than 18 years), the Tribune’s Jenna Ross wrote.


Meanwhile, Jacob’s parents haven’t given up hope that their son will be found. In recent years, authorities have searched for a link between the Wetterling case and child abductions in nearby areas around the same time. In 2010, farm property near the site of Jacob’s abduction was searched again, as it had been several times before. No evidence was found.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

After 25 Years, Search for Jacob Wetterling Continues (by Jenna Ross, Star Tribune)

Jacob Wetterling Investigation Timeline (St. Cloud Times)

Joy the Curious

FBI Reopens Mysterious 1964 Kidnapping Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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