Jacob Wetterling's family has 'hope,' continues to plead for answers

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The Wetterlings stood outside of their St. Joseph home – the same place they stood 26 years ago to plead for their son's return – speaking of the hope that one day they'll have answers about Jacob's disappearance.

It was the first time the Wetterlings addressed the public since an Annandale man was named a person of interest – but non a suspect – in their son's disappearance.

"We still don't know who took Jacob," Patty Wetterling told reporters gathered outside of her home Tuesday. "We have as many questions as you."

She and her husband Jerry pleaded with the public to come forward with any information they may have about the case, or other children who may have been victimized.

"That little piece of information, when added to other pieces of information, will help solve the puzzle and bring Jacob home," Jerry Wetterling said.

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Charges against Heinrich

Daniel Heinrich, 52, was charged last Thursday with possessing and receiving child pornography. Heinrich, who was named a person of interest in Jacob's disappearance last week, was interviewed in 1989 and 1990 in connection with the Wetterling case, but never charged.

He has denied any involvement in Wetterling's disappearance.

Investigators had executed a search warrant at Heinrich's home in July seeking evidence in Jacob's 1989 disappearance, as well as the kidnapping and abuse of a 12-year-old boy in Cold Spring a few months earlier.

Officials didn't find evidence linking Heinrich to the Wetterling case, but they did discover images of child pornography, which led to the charges against him.

Investigators also announced that Heinrich's DNA was found on an article of clothing worn by the Cold Spring victim at the time of his abduction. Heinrich was arrested in connection with that case in 1990, but was released without being charged, the Pioneer Press reports. He will not be charged now either because the statute of limitations has run out, officials said.

At the time Jacob disappeared, Heinrich was living in nearby Paynesville. Between 1986 and 1988, eight attacks on young boys were reported within blocks of Heinrich's home, reports note.

Last year, officials announced they would take another look at whether Jacob’s abduction was linked to the Paynesville assault cases in the late 1980s.

Jacob's case

Jacob was 11 years old when he went missing. He was biking with his brother and friend on Oct. 22, 1989, in his hometown of St. Joseph when he was kidnapped by a masked man with a gun.

His story has captivated Minnesotans and people across the country, and changed the way law enforcement officials search for missing kids across the U.S.

It also prompted Jacob’s mother to work with families of other missing and exploited children. Even after 26 years, she has hope her son will be found. On Tuesday, she continued to ask the public to report any incidents of sexual abuse on children, which could help solve the mystery of Jacob's disappearance.

Since Jacob disappeared, investigators have followed upwards of 50,000 leads, the Star Tribune says, but no one has ever been named a suspect in the case.

“We will not rest until we bring Jacob home,” Minnesota BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said at a news conference last week.

The investigation into Jacob’s disappearance is active and ongoing. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Stearns County Sheriff’s Department at 320-259-3742.

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