Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been found, nearly 27 years after the boy disappeared, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Saturday afternoon.
According to authorities, the Ramsey County medical examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains Saturday.
The remains were discovered after Danny Heinrich – the man who was named a person of interest in the 1989 disappearance of 11-year-old Jacob – provided information that led authorities to a site in central Minnesota, sources told KSTP.
The sheriff’s office also said the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will do more DNA testing.
Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, said on Twitter her family is “drawing strength” from the support.
WCCO says the FBI took Heinrich out of jail at least twice this week, and that he led them to Stearns County, where officials found the remains and some of Jacob’s clothing.
BringMeTheNews will update this story as more information becomes available.
‘Jacob, you are loved’
The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which Patty Wetterling and her husband Jerry started to help prevent the exploitation of children, released a statement Saturday, saying: “We are in deep grief. We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way. … Jacob, you are loved.”
More about Danny Heinrich
Heinrich, 52, faces 25 charges of possessing and receiving child porn after investigators say they found child pornography in dozens of three-ring binders in his Annandale home during a search last summer.
He was taken into custody in October 2015, which is when the U.S. Attorney’s Office discussed his possible connection to the Wetterling case – though authorities emphasized he is not a suspect, and he has denied any involvement.
Heinrich pleaded not guilty to the charges in a court hearing in February that lasted about five minutes, the Star Tribune reported. The case is expected to go to trial next month.
Officials have also linked him to the January 1989 kidnapping and sexual assault of a 12-year-old Cold Spring boy through DNA. Heinrich was living in the area where several other boys were assaulted during that time.
Heinrich was interviewed in 1990 in connection with the Wetterling case, WCCO reported.
Public figures react
Gov. Mark Dayton expressed his condolences to the Wetterling family Saturday afternoon in a statement.
“For nearly 27 years, Minnesotans have held the Wetterling family in their thoughts and prayers, as they never gave up hope and never stopped searching for their beloved Jacob,” Dayton said. “Today, we continue to offer our love and support, as the Wetterling family finally brings their son home to rest.”
Dayton went on to say that the Wetterling family is not alone in this as “Jacob’s story has touched the lives and hearts of Minnesotans for a generation.”
Other lawmakers have also released statements.
“With today’s heartbreaking news, all of Minnesota grieves with Patty, Jerry, and the entire Wetterling family. At this tragic time, it is my hope that Jacob will finally rest in peace as he is brought home to his family and so many who love him,” U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said in an email statement Saturday.
She also thanked the Wetterling family for their “tireless advocacy and leadership” they have provided for missing and exploited children across the country.