“Wow. No way,” were Caroline Lowe’s first thoughts, she told me Monday, when KARE 11 news director Jane Helmke called to ask if the former, longtime WCCO-TV reporter would come back to Minnesota to work an indefinite special assignment on the Jacob Wetterling case as a member of the “KARE 11 Investigates” team.

Last week’s naming of a person of interest in Wetterling’s 1989 disappearance had Lowe, who left WCCO in 2011 after 34 years for a job at KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo, Calif., again sharing information with her former ’CCO colleagues. No more. “I can’t now that I’m here,” said Lowe, who remains the lone investigative reporter at KSBY. KSBY and KARE are NBC stations.

“This was an opportunity. I’m just so very grateful. I don’t have any illusions I’m going to come up with anything great, but I’m going to do my best to dig,” Lowe said.

Lowe got permission from Helmke to give her four closest WCCO-TV colleagues a heads up about the KARE 11 assignment. “I did feel some concern because I am so close to some people at ’CCO. It was tough calling Amelia, but they were great,” said Lowe, adding, “Every one of us is going to be out there until we find Jacob.” In addition to WCCO anchors Amelia Santaniello and Liz Collin, Lowe also gave advance notice to two photographers with whom she worked the most, Tom Aviles and Dave Chaney.

Lowe returned to Minnesota early Monday with a stone inscribed with the word HOPE, a token given by Patty Wetterling at her going-away party. “I really can’t forget Jacob. I have his picture and Jodi [Huisentruit’s] on my desk in California,” said Lowe. There are other missing people she also can’t forget.

Lowe considers it a privilege to work with Helmke, “one of the most humble news people.”

Helmke rarely accepts credit. When asked whose idea it was to hire Lowe, a stroke of genius, Helmke said, “I guess it was mine.” As I teased her how unusual that was to hear, Helmke said, “Well, I think it was all of ours. We’re just looking for ways to put all of our best people on it and other resources we could grab a hold of and partnerships we could build that would help us be better journalists. I’m thrilled she could be available. We have a great team. It’s not about anything we can’t do; it’s just that she has other great resources that she can continue to make us better and better. She, of course, was there on Day 1, and she has made missing children and adults a passion and life mission beyond television journalism. She has just a lot of resources.”

And by resources, Helmke means SOURCES, as Lowe also became certified as a police officer while in Minnesota. In fact, Lowe told me she was at the BCA this summer when she returned to visit Minnesota.

I asked Lowe if her gut tells her Daniel James Heinrich is the man who kidnapped Jacob.

“I don’t know. It felt different. They’ve never had a news conference like this before. When they searched a property five years ago and we [media] were standing outside, there was no news conference. They think he’s it. They want neighbors to know, ‘We’re not looking in that direction, we’re looking at this guy.’ ”

Calling Dr. Palmer?

A friend of mine who lives in Golden Valley’s North Tyrol Hills neighborhood had a terrifying encounter last week with a large, aggressive animal that came running at her and two leashed puppies she was walking.

She is used to coyotes looking scrawnier than this beast, which she put at 60-70 pounds. When she got home and researched aggressive coyotes, she came across of photo of a “coywolf” and determined that is what she saw.

The day after I heard this, I got an e-mail from reader Carol saying that her neighbors in Bloomington have been suggesting that Dr. Walter Palmer, killer of Cecil the Lion, might be just the man to hunt coyotes that have been kidnapping and eating small pets. “Perhaps the city of Bloomington would issue him a permit,” Carol wrote.

That would be one way for Palmer to get back into the good graces of the public. Maybe. That animal in North Tyrol Hills sounds like a worthy adversary.


C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count. Attachments are not opened.