They finally found Jacob Wetterling.
The circumstances could hardly have been worse. When he was abducted some 27 years ago, there was still a lot of hope that Wetterling could be found alive, rescued from whomever had taken him.
Over time, that hope ebbed, though his parents never fully gave it up. Not until this past weekend, when Daniel James Heinrich, the person of interest arrested on child pornography charges last year, led investigators to the scene of Jacob Wetterling's remains.
Unable to save her own child, Patty Wetterling took on the burden of saving children across America. She campaigned for stronger laws that required the registration of sex offenders, and later, she ran for Congress as a Democrat in her deeply conservative central Minnesota district, losing to Republican Mark Kennedy in 2004 and former GOP U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in 2006.
Still later, Wetterling was again an advocate for youth, but in a most surprising way, arguing against overly harsh penalties for juvenile sex offenders. Though she did not yet know the identity of her son's kidnapper, Wetterling said most young offenders are "very different than the man who took Jacob."
The mother's grace on display from the beginning is still there now, in her hour of mourning. The Wetterling family has yet to address the media since news of Heinrich's cooperation with police, and the confirmation that it was Jacob Wetterling's body found on a farm in Paynesville.
Instead, over the weekend, the family asked (through its Jacob Wetterling Resource Center) that supporters remember a cheerful boy who loved hockey, football, the trombone, and his family. The Wetterlings wrote of a light "that illuminates a world Jacob believed in, where things are fair and just."
Many Minnesotans took this statement of hope literally. In solidarity with Jacob and the Wetterlings, tens of thousands reportedly left their porch lights on Saturday night.
On Monday, Patty issued a short, poignant statement, again asking for time to process the final chapter in her son's tragedy before speaking to the media. For those looking for some way, any way, to help the grieving family, she offered these words:
"Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us.
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Be with friends.
Play with your children.
Eat ice cream.
Help your neighbor.
That is what will bring me comfort today.";