Jacob Wetterling investigators return to St. Joseph

After more that 20 years, Minnesotans still snap to attention over any reminder of the sad and tragic disappearance of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling. It happened again last night as news broke that investigators had returned to the scene of the 1989 gun-point abduction in St. Joseph.

What were the FBI, and Stearns County Sheriff's deputies looking for on the property, about a half-mile from the Wetterling home? Beyond acknowledging they were executing a search warrant, they wouldn't say.

"I do understand that the public is interested in what's going on," Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner told the St. Cloud Times. "I don't want to do anything at this point to compromise any potential prosecution."

Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling, became a tireless advocate for protecting children from abduction and abuse. Then she turned to politics, running as a Democrat against against Republican Mark Kennedy in District 6. In a 2004 cover story on her transformation into would-be pol, we wrote:

After Wetterling announced her candidacy in mid-May, however, everybody stopped looking past November 2. As the victim of a notorious family tragedy, Wetterling is a widely renowned, enormously sympathetic public figure. She has worked tirelessly and successfully to pass a wealth of state and federal legislation, including the national Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sex Offender Registration Act. Her name recognition in the Sixth District is higher than Kennedy's (91 to 86 percent). And although it was never measured, her pre-candidacy approval rating probably would have ranked somewhere between Gandhi and apple pie.

What nobody knew then, and what pundits and voters alike still don't know, is what happens when someone with such an unimpeachable background gets involved in the nasty business of electoral politics.

Wetterling lost that race to Kennedy. Two years later she returned to campaign for the seat again, this time against Republican Michele Bachmann, and lost again.

WCCO's Don Shelby spoke with Petty Wetterling yesterday about the new turn of events in the investigation into Jacob's disappearance.

"Thank God people still care," she told him.

WCCO has a useful timeline of events since Jacob's abduction.

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