MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The remains of an 11-year-old boy abducted in 1989 while riding his bicycle near his home in central Minnesota have been found and were officially identified on Saturday, authorities said.
Jacob Wetterling, whose parents Patty and Jerry Wetterling became tireless advocates for missing children after his disappearance, was identified by dental records, the Stearns County, Minnesota, sheriff said in a statement.
The statement did not say where or how the remains were located. Authorities expect to be in a position to provide more detailed information early next week, it said, and the sheriff’s office said additional DNA testing will be performed.
Authorities last October named Danny James Heinrich a person-of-interest in the disappearance and suspected homicide of Wetterling and announced separate federal charges of possessing and receiving child pornography.
Heinrich has been in custody since his arrest last year.
“Our family is drawing strength from all your love & support,” Patricia Wetterling said on twitter. “We’re struggling with words at this time. Thank you for your hope.”
FBI Special Agent Richard Thornton in October 2015 said Heinrich was a person-of-interest given the similarities between Wetterling’s abduction, a number of unsolved sexual assaults in central Minnesota dating to the 1980s and the nature of the charges against him.
Wetterling was abducted near his St. Joseph home in October 1989 while riding a bicycle with his brother and a friend.
Authorities looked closely in 1989 and 1990 at Heinrich, who in 1990 submitted his shoes and tires for comparison to tracks and prints left near the abduction scene, Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said in October 2015.
Investigators reviewing the Wetterling disappearance in the past year took another look at Heinrich and retested DNA from clothing a juvenile male was wearing in January 1989 when he was sexually assaulted by a man about 10 miles from Wetterling’s hometown, Thornton said. They found a match to Heinrich.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in October 2015 the statute of limitations had run out on the sexual assault and Heinrich had denied any involvement in Wetterling’s disappearance.
Authorities searched Heinrich’s home in July 2015, finding child pornography in three-ring binders and on a computer hard drive. They also found dozens of videotapes Heinrich appeared to have filmed of young boys delivering newspapers, playing or riding bicycles, officials said, but Wetterling’s picture was not among them.
Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Dan Grebler