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Law Officers on Horseback Search For Abducted Boy

October 27, 1989

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. (AP) _ Searchers joined by deputies on horseback Thursday found no sign of an 11- year-old boy who was abducted four days earlier by a masked man with a gun.

Stearns County Sheriff Charlie Grafft said he would ask county residents on Friday to search their own property for Jacob Wetterling. ″They know the property better than we do,″ Grafft said.

Hundreds of people have volunteered to help in the search. Some 600 people attended a prayer vigil Wednesday.

″This is an area of the country where tornadoes occur. We have blizzards. People get lost in them and die. But how do you protect yourself against ... the stranger who steps out of the dark and snatches your child?″ said Anthony Sorem, who teaches psychology at two private schools in the area.

An anonymous group of Minneapolis and St. Paul business leaders on Thursday night offered a $100,000 cash reward for Jacob’s safe return within 72 hours.

Sunday night was the first time Jacob had been allowed to ride his bicycle after dark to go to a convenience store, when he planned to rent a videotape, said his father, Jerry Wetterling. Jacob was accompanied by his 10-year-old brother, Trevor, and an 11-year-old friend.

On the way back to the Wetterlings house outside this central Minnesota town of 2,200, they were accosted by a man who had what appeared to be panty hose pulled over his head to distort his facial features.

The two boys who escaped told police the man pulled a gun and asked them their ages, then ordered them to run away and threatened to shoot them. Not until they were a distance down the road did they realize Jacob wasn’t with them.

Stearns County Sheriff’s Lt. Charlie Brigham said 43 special deputies from at least five central Minnesota counties formed a volunteer posse Thursday, hoping to find clues that searchers on foot and all-terrain vehicles might have missed in a 15-square-mile area around the abduction point.

He said riding on horseback expands the searchers’ field of vision. ″It’s unbelievable what you can do with these things,″ Brigham said.

Grafft said the group looked for any clues, especially clothing that may have been left behind.

Wetterling said he and his wife Patty, 39, a substitute school teacher, had warned their four children to be wary of strangers.

″My advice would be to take time to sit down and instruct children that there are sick people in the world,″ said Wetterling, 41, a chiropractor and president of the St. Cloud chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

They described Jacob as an all-around student who loved to study math and play goalie on a youth-league hockey team. Ms. Wetterling said she expects Jacob is trying to befriend his captor in an effort to escape. ″He’s incredibly patient,″ she said. She added that the boy hopes to be a veterinarian.

″Jacob’s at an age where the world is full of possibilities,″ Ms. Wetterling said.

Wetterling said they had received no ransom demands and doubts his civil rights activism is a factor in the abduction. ″It’s an abnormal situation,″ he said.

The kidnapping shook this quiet town, which is the home the College of St. Benedict and is near the Collegeville campus of St. John’s University, the two schools where Sorem is associate professor of psychology. Pictures of Jacob have been posted in store windows throughout the area.

Mark Bina, who lives near the Wetterlings, said he ordered his children to stay home at night. ″When it’s dark, they’re in. They’re throwing a fit about it,″ Bina said.

Sandy Larson, whose daughter goes to school with the Wetterling children, said she is taking her kids elsewhere to trick-or-treat on Halloween.

″We’re new in the area. I’m taking them to our old neighborhood,″ she said.

FBI spokesman Byron Gigler said 20 agents have been assigned to the case.

The FBI released a personality profile of the type of person likely to have kidnapped Jacob. According to the profile, the kidnapper is probably a sex offender, a white male 25 to 35 years old, with some type of physical deformity, and is likely to work at some type of unskilled job.

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