For 27 years, Minnesotans have left their porch lights on every October 22 for Jacob Wetterling, who went missing on that date in 1989.
On Saturday, lights were left on across the country – and other parts of the world – in the most heartbreaking of circumstances after it was revealed Jacob’s remains had been found by authorities, acting on information from the “person of interest” in his abduction, Danny Heinrich.
On social media, Minnesota residents and businesses shared pictures of their porches and their own personal reaction to a case that has become a huge part of the collective consciousness the past three decades.
Hundreds of people have already posted on the “Lights on for Jacob Wetterling,” Facebook event their porch light tributes to Jacob, who was 11 years old when he was snatched from his home town of St. Joseph.
The post from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center reacting to the remains being found has been shared on Facebook more than 11,000 times, with commenters as far away as Australia saying they left their lights on for Jacob.
KARE 11 reports that there was a “mix of emotions” in St. Joseph, with the overwhelming feeling of sadness joined by some relief that there is finally an answer to his disappearance.
Well-wishers are placing flowers and cards of encouragement at the end of his parents’ driveway, while others in town have been brought to tears by the news.
WCCO reports of an emotional church service in St. Joseph Saturday night, as mourners discussed the impact Jacob’s disappearance had on their lives.
“Everybody in this community has been talking about him all day and my whole life,” Lindsay Vojtasek told the TV station. “I just wanted to show support for Patty and the Wetterlings and give some kind of love.”
Jacob’s remains were found in a grave on a farm outside of Paynesville, the city where Danny Heinrich lived three decades ago at the time of the abduction, according to the Star Tribune.
Jacob’s remains were confirmed by dental records, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said, and additional DNA testing will be conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Apprehension, the newspaper notes.