Authorities investigating the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling are reviewing records of 11 monks under restrictions at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn.
The monks’ activities have been restricted because of allegations or admissions of sexual abuse.
Stearns County Sheriff Jim Kostreba said Friday that he and Chief Deputy Doug Pearce met with St. John’s Abbot John Klassen last week asking to review the records as part of investigations into two unsolved cases.
One is the stabbing deaths of sisters Mary Reker, 15, and Susanne Reker, 12, whose bodies were found in an abandoned gravel quarry west of St. Cloud on Sept. 28, 1974, 26 days after they disappeared while shopping for school supplies.
The other is the October 1989 abduction of Wetterling, who lived in nearby St. Joseph and was 11 at the time he disappeared. He has not been seen since.
Kostreba said he did not discuss details of the cases with Klassen, who provided authorities with the information they requested.
“We didn’t focus on specific cases . . . but there are two of them we have interest in,” the sheriff said.
“Reker and Wetterling?” the sheriff said. “Obviously we’re interested in both of them.”
Kostreba said that over the years investigators have followed up on leads or tips involving some of the monks. But he said this week that national attention to sexual abuse by priests led his department to take a new look at the cases.
He said authorities are reviewing the records of the 11 monks “to see if it will develop into leads.”
Pearce said agents from the FBI, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Stearns County are reviewing the records.
“For those of us working the case, there’s nothing new other than it’s another lead,” said Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother. “The FBI was there right from the beginning. It’s not like it’s all brand new. It’s just one more look at something we knew something about. It’s good that they’re checking on everything. It’s good to look again.”
Said Pearce, who was on duty the night Jacob was abducted: “Like all leads, we have to check them out very thoroughly. Certainly, any information we obtain from the church or any business on any suspects is very important. The more cooperation we get from an organization, the more thorough we can be.”
Jacob, his brother Trevor, 10, and best friend Aaron Larson, 11, took off from the Wetterlings’ house in St. Joseph about 9 p.m. on Oct. 22, 1989, to pick up a video at a Tom Thumb store, about a mile away. Two of the boys were on bikes; the third took a scooter.
On the trip home, a man appeared on the gravel road about a quarter-mile from the Wetterlings’ house, ordered the boys to drop to the ground, looked at each boy, asked their ages, then freed Trevor and Aaron, telling them to run and not look back. The man threatened to shoot the boys if they looked. When the boys finally looked back, Jacob was gone.
Over the next several weeks, investigators and volunteers searched the countryside in and around St. Joseph, looking for any sign of Jacob.
Over the past 12 1/2 years, investigators have followed up on nearly 30,000 leads and cleared nearly 4,000 suspects. They’ve consulted psychics and checked out sightings of Jacob look-alikes and explored dozens of theories. Leads have taken investigators to nearly every state and around the world, Pearce said.
He said that, on average, investigators still get two or three new tips a week on the case.
– Richard Meryhew is at email@example.com.
Agents reviewing Abbey’s records // They hope for clues on Jacob Wetterling; Richard Meryhew; Staff Writer
Minneapolis Star Tribune 05-11-2002