Calling it a “tough journey,” Patty Wetterling said Saturday that her family has decided not to appeal the decision of a Minnesota judge ordering the release of state files on the 27-year investigation into the kidnapping and murder of her son, Jacob.
Seventh Judicial District Judge Ann Carrott ruled in April that a Minnesota law unambiguously states that investigative files should become public once a case has concluded, unless there’s a specific exception in the law.
Family members said at the time that they were disappointed with the ruling and mulling whether to appeal it. They had objected to the release of certain documents they considered too personal. A coalition of news media and open government entities sought access to the full record.
In a brief interview Saturday, Patty Wetterling said her family will put out a statement but that it would not be released Saturday. “It’s been a tough journey,” she said.
Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall reviewed the files and determined last year that state law made public 56,733 pages. But Jacob’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, objected to the release of 168 pages.
It’s not clear yet when the files will be released.
Kendall issued this statement:
“We are in the process of complying with the court’s order to return federal documents to the federal government. ... Once that process is completed, we anticipate releasing the nonfederal part of the investigation shortly thereafter. An appeal by any party would likely slow down or halt entirely any release until the appeal was resolved.”
Earlier this year, federal prosecutors obtained a court order requiring Stearns County to return FBI records in the case, leaving just six state investigative documents containing 89 pages in dispute. Of those, the Wetterlings objected to the release of 29 pages.
Jacob Wetterling was 11 years old when he was kidnapped on Oct. 22, 1989, in St. Joseph, Minn. His disappearance became a national story and changed the way American parents view the dangers to their children.
Jacob’s fate was unknown until the summer of 2016, when Danny Heinrich reached a plea agreement to settle federal child pornography charges and confessed to killing him and burying his body in a pasture in Paynesville, where it was found.
Heinrich was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was never tried in Jacob’s death.
Staff writer Dan Browning contributed to this report.