His kidnapping on Oct. 22, 1989, became a national spectacle and led to a 27-year investigation.
Jacob Wetterling, the sixth-grader from St. Joseph who was abducted in 1989 by a masked gunman on a dark country road, is fixed in time.
For nearly 27 years, he was the brown-haired kid with the smiling eyes portrayed on "Missing" posters, billboards, and pizza boxes.
The details are well-known: Jacob was riding a bike home from the local Tom Thumb store with his brother and best friend when a man in a mask stepped from the shadows into the road. When the abductor asked his age, Jacob answered, "I am 11 years old."
According to those who loved him, the second of the Wetterlings' four children was enthusiastic about sports, including football and hockey. He liked to fish with his dad, Jerry. He was a good, creative student, though he also procrastinated and disliked homework.
He had just started playing the trombone, which his mother, Patty, said he called "the bone." He made friends easily and was well-liked. He was fond of animals and spoke of being a veterinarian. One of his favorite songs that year was "Listen," by Baha'i folksinger Red Grammer. He liked steak and the color blue.
As the decades have passed, various sources issued age-enhanced photos of what Jacob might look like as an adult. Those efforts, alongside one of the highest-profile police searches in U.S. history, yielded the occasional heart-stopping lead. In 2007, for example, a man called from Kentucky claiming to be Jacob. He said he had amnesia and bore a promising mole on his cheek. But fingerprints and blood tests ruled him out.
Finally, on Sept. 3, 2016, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office announced that his remains had been recovered, buried on a farm plot just outside Paynesville, Minn., about 30 miles from his home. Authorities were pointed to the remains by Danny Heinrich, who they long had linked to the case.