Jacob Wetterling was 11 years old when he was abducted while riding his bike, just two blocks from his home.
It was the evening of October 22, 1989. Jacob had been left at home with his two younger siblings, Trevor and Carmen, and a friend, Aaron Larson, while his parents were at a dinner party.
"We weren't going to be gone very long, and they were just going to stay home," his mum Patty later explained to CNN.
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The three boys wanted to ride their bikes to a convenience store to rent a video, so they rang Patty. She said no, because it was dark, and it would be too dangerous. So the boys rang Jacob’s dad Jerry, promising that Jacob would wear a reflective vest and Trevor would carry a torch, and they would get a 14-year-old neighbour to come around and babysit Carmen.
Jerry said yes.
The store was not much more than a kilometre away from where the boys lived in the small town of St Joseph, Minnesota. Before long they were on their way home with the video Naked Gun. But as they rode down a dark stretch of road, a man with a handgun, wearing a mask, leapt out in front of them.
He told the boys to get off their bikes and lie face down on the road. He asked their ages, then told Trevor to run into the woods, warning him not to look back or he would shoot him. He told Jacob and Aaron to turn around so he could see their faces. Then he told Aaron to run into the woods, again warning that if he would shoot him if he looked back.
The man grabbed Jacob’s arm and dragged him away.
Trevor and Aaron ran back to the Wetterling house. The neighbour’s dad immediately called Patty and Jerry, as well as the police. It took the police just six minutes to get to the spot where Jacob had been abducted. A search began immediately, involving a helicopter as well as officers on foot.