Credit: The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center
The Wetterlings are thanking the community for their support over the past 27 years, especially in the weeks following the discovery of their son Jacob.
Patty and Jerry Wetterling released a video statement through the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center Tuesday, which you can watch above.
"We have been strengthened by the love and support of so many in our search for Jacob. After such a long time, the suddenness of the answer, the horrific last minutes or hour of Jacob's life, and the finality of his death have been so very hard for us to process," Patty says in the message.
On Sept. 6 – days after Danny Heinrich led investigators to Jacob's remains – he admitted in open court that on Oct. 22, 1989, he kidnapped Jacob, sexually assaulted him, killed him, and then buried his body in Paynesville.
"Jacob's kidnapping gripped the St. Joseph community, the state, and the entire nation in 1989. Our family has been lifted up and carried through the agony of the search and difficult life markers – graduations, family weddings, and the loss of our loved ones," Jerry says.
And when Jacob's remains were finally found, Jerry Wetterling said it was hard for them to carry on with their daily lives – it was hard to sleep, eat think and work – but they had to find a way to honor their son and "strengthen Jacob's Hope for a better and safer world for children."
Continuing Jacob's legacy
Since Jacob disappeared nearly 27 years ago, the Wetterlings have pushed to make the world a better place for kids. They founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, and became advocates to prevent the exploitation of children.
Last month, the Wetterlings encouraged people to continue Jacob's legacy by living their life following 11 traits Jacob believed in, such as being fair and kind. And since then, many youth sports teams and community members have been sharing how they're living #11forJacob.
"Jacob believed in a world where children have the right to grow up safe and follow their dream. That's what we're fighting for. There's work to do. We need to find the children who are still missing and we need to build a world where children are not afraid," Patty says in the video.
32 missing children in Minnesota
There are currently 32 missing children in Minnesota, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Every year hundreds of thousands of kids go missing in the United States, with FBI statistics showing there were 460,699 reports of missing kids in 2015. (That figure doesn't mean the person wasn't found safe – it's just how many missing persons reports there were.)
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children assisted law enforcement with more than 13,700 cases of missing children nationwide last year – 86 percent of them were endangered runaways (about one in five runaways are victims of child sex trafficking), while only 1 percent were non-family abductions.
For more information on the Wetterlings' efforts to protect children, click here.