A large contingent of law enforcement officials unexpectedly returned to the scene of one of Minnesota's most notorious child kidnappings Wednesday, but remained silent about the status of the case or the reason for their latest search.
FBI agents, sheriff's officials, and the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrived at the St. Joseph, Minn. property with a sealed search warrant. The property is near the site where 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted in 1989.
FBI Special Agent E.K. Wilson confirmed that FBI agents are assisting with the search, but declined to say whether it was related to the unsolved kidnapping.
Aerial photos taken by the St. Cloud Times show as many as 17 vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and trailers on the site Wednesday afternoon.
A few vehicles have left, but two sheriff's cars remained parked in the driveway. Officials said they don't know when the search will end.
Patty Wetterling, Jacob's mother, said she learned of the search Wednesday morning.
"I don't honestly think there's any break in this case," she said. "This is just what you do. You have a cold case. You go back to the beginning over and over. And I think there's some other people way back at the beginning that they're also going to be checking out."
Jacob Wetterling was abducted at gunpoint on Oct. 22, 1989 near the entry to the property's driveway. He was biking home with his brother and a friend when a masked man with a gun stopped them and told them to get off their bikes and lie face down in a ditch.
After telling the man how old they were, 10-year-old Trevor Wetterling and 11-year-old Aaron Larson were told to run away. They never saw Jacob again.
The Stearns County website lists the property's owners as Robert and Rita Rassier. A woman answered the phone at the property this afternoon, but immediately hung up.
Another family member, Daniel Rassier, is listed at the same address and serves as the St. Joseph treasurer, according to the county's website.
Wetterling said the Rassiers lived on the property at the time of the kidnapping and have farmed the land for decades.
"They're wonderful people," she said. "It's got to be really painful for them as well."
Stearns County Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold declined to say why law enforcement officials are at the property.
"We're conducting an investigation and the details of that investigation are restricted by a court order and we cannot discuss it," he said.
Bechtold said he has "no idea how long" investigators will remain on the property. He said it's possible that the investigation could continue tomorrow. Wilson also confirmed that the investigation is ongoing.
Patty Wetterling said she's thankful that law enforcement officials continue to search for her son, who would be 32 years old this year.
"This is just an ongoing painful thing for a lot of people," she said, "And we need to know one way or another."
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.