KARE 11 Investigates: Coincidence in Wetterling Case

4:30 PM, Jul 30, 2004   |    comments
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A former Cold Spring man, who was abducted and assaulted just ten months before Jacob Wetterling disappeared, is coming forward to tell his story publicly for the first time in hopes it will trigger new leads in the Wetterling case.

The man told his story to KARE-TV reporter Rick Kupchella. The station is identifying the man only as "Jared" out of concern for his family.

Jared has been called upon frequently since his abduction to assist police with possible connections to the Wetterling abduction. In fact, investigators confirm that one of the key sketches released in the search for Wetterling's abductor was actually put together by Jared.

Jared's story begins on a winter night in Cold Spring, Minnesota. It was Friday, January 13, 1989.

Jared was just 12 years old when, while walking home from hockey practice, a man pulled up alongside him on the road and asked for directions.

"I was giving directions, saying 'you go down this block and take a left ..'" Jared said. "As I was giving those brief instructions he stepped out of the vehicle, approached me from behind, grabbed me by my shoulders and put me in the car. "

In police records obtained by KARE-TV, Jared told police the man said he had a gun and wasn't afraid to use it.

The abductor ordered Jared to pull his winter cap down over his eyes, forced him into the car and told the boy to get down in the back seat.

"You know, it was a genuine question. I knew the answers and as I was giving them, my life changed, " Jared said.

The man then drove Jared around the area before pulling over in a remote area and sexually assaulting him.

Local investigators were on Jared's case immediately. But ten months later, just days after Jacob Wetterling's abduction, everything changed. The number of investigators jumped dramatically and included the FBI. In the search for Jacob, it was clear police wanted to know everything about what happed to Jared.

"They really stressed the fact that I really take time to remember every little aspect of the case in the hope of getting a better understanding of this particular individual," Jared recalled.

"Because to them it was the road to Jacob?" Kupchella asked.

"You could say that," Jared said.

Jared: ".. maybe this will lead to something. That's why I'm here."

In the days after Wetterling disappeared, investigators took Jared to car lots to try to identify the make of model of his abductor's car.

They also drove him around at night, trying to trace his abductor's route.

Jared was finally able to lead authorities to the right location when he recognized a distinctive light at a nearby farm.

"Where you see the silo there, there was a distinguished light I remember from that night while I was looking out the window," Jared recalled.

Jared's mother, who the station is also not identifying, also spoke to Kupchella about that January night.

"When he walked in the door, I knew something was wrong just by the way he looked - in shock, pale and stuttering," she remembers.

"He kept trying to say 'a guy, a guy,' and he kept saying that. And he finally got that out and I said, 'Jared, we need to talk.'"

After the assault, the man took Jared's blue jeans and his underwear and left the boy to put his snow pants over the naked lower half of his body.

While driving him back to town, the abductor kept questioning Jared about whether or not the boy could identify him.

"Jared said to me (that) he said to himself 'Well God, if you think it's my time now, I guess it's my time.' He thought he was going to die," his mother remembers her son saying that night.

Jared says once back near town, the man pulled him from the back seat and told him to run.

"And don't look back or he threatened to shoot, " Jared said. "I did as I was told."

Sheriff Sanner: ".. The similarities are there and you cannot get beyond that."

Police were at Jared's home within minutes after his return. He was taken to a local hospital for tests throughout the night.

Jared's abduction, like the Wetterling abduction, has haunted investigators in Stearns County for years.

When asked by Kupchella to what degree Jared's case is an active criminal investigation, John Sanner, Stearns County Sheriff replied, "to the same degree Wetterling's is because we cannot tell you right now that they're not connected."

Kupchella went on to ask the sheriff, who was a sergeant investigator at the time of the Wetterling abduction, how connected he believes the two cases are.

"The similarities are there and you cannot get beyond that," Sanner said. "But are they really and truly connected? Until we get resolution, I don't know that we can answer that with any certainty."

The list of similarities is as compelling today as it was back in 1989.
  • Similar ages. Jared was 12. Jacob was 11.
  • Similar Suspect Description. A lone, white male with a low, gravely voice. map showing proximity of towns
  • The location of the abductions. Jared was taken in Cold Spring, just ten miles from St. Joseph where Jacob disappeared.
  • In each case, there was a threat of a gun.
  • The sexual nature of each crime. In Jared's case, he was sexually assaulted. In Jacob's case, authorities confirm there was the suggestion of ‘sexual interest' in the boys.
  • A mask. In Jared's case, the abductor forced the boy's cap over his eyes. In Jacob's case the abductor wore nylon stockings over his head.
  • Similar commands. Jared was told to "run away and don't look back or I'll shoot." The boys with Jacob were told to "run into the woods and don't look back or I'll shoot."
The differences include the use of a car in Jared's abduction, while Jacob was approached by a man on foot.

And the biggest difference is one not lost on anyone involved.

"I got Jared back, " Jared's mother said. "Some parents don't even get them back or they find them dead. So I'm thankful I got Jared back. I think of the parents who continue year after year not knowing where their child is, like Mrs. Wetterling and I always wished there was a conclusion for her. I always wanted that for her."

Jared never sought counseling after his abduction and has tried to put the past behind him. He hopes by telling his story now, it might help someone remember something that could help investigators in the Wetterling case.

"If it was solely my own case, I would probably have just moved on because it's been fifteen years. It just seems like a long time, " Jared said. "And who knows, maybe this will lead to something. That's why I'm here."

(Copyright 2004 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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