Man says rights violated in Wetterling abduction case

Wetterling searfh
Squad cars and other vehicles are parked on a farm near where Jacob Wetterling was abducted in 1989 in St. Joseph, Minn., in this file photo from June 30, 2010.
Kimm Anderson/St. Cloud Times via The AP

A man who has been publicly identified as a person of interest in the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling told The Associated Press on Thursday that he sent a letter to 14 state officials and agencies, complaining about how he has been treated by law enforcement.

In the letter obtained by the AP, Dan Rassier wrote that law officers violated his civil rights and his family's rights and "abused the privileges of their power" in relation to the Jacob Wetterling case. Rassier also criticized the way the investigation has been handled over the years.

This is the first time Rassier, an elementary school music teacher, has put his complaints in writing. When asked why he did so after all this time, he said: "They are just going to keep me kind of on this lifeline dangling there forever, and I want that to stop."

Jacob was 11 when he was abducted Oct. 22, 1989, by a masked gunman at the end of Rassier's driveway in St. Joseph, about 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis. He hasn't been seen since. Authorities have examined tens of thousands of leads, but there have been no arrests in the case that drew national attention and led to changes in sex offender registration laws.

Rassier, now 56, was home alone at the time. He has been questioned multiple times, but his name didn't come out publicly until 2010, when authorities searched his family farm over two days.

Forensic tests on items taken from that search have yielded no evidence linking them to the crime, but investigators are still testing some items, or waiting for technology to advance so additional testing can be done.

Remembering Jacob
Jerry Wetterling said one of the ways he maintains a connection with his son is by pinning a button with Jacob's picture on his shirt every day. Wetterling's son went missing in 1989.
MPR Photo/Ambar Espinoza

Rassier, who says he is innocent, has not been cleared.

"Is it considered legal for law enforcement to give the public the perception I am guilty of something when I'm not?" Rassier wrote, adding: "To destroy our family's name the way they did because they had a 'Hunch!' is in itself, a serious crime. Nothing can make it right now. The damage has been done. But to leave the whole thing open to speculation and open to the public's imagination is just wrong!"

In his letter, Rassier also complained that authorities have not returned his property or listened to details he is offering about what he witnessed the night Jacob was taken.

Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner is among a handful of people named in the letter. He said Thursday he hadn't seen it, but couldn't comment regardless because the investigation into the boy's abduction is still active.

Sanner said authorities have put a tremendous amount of resources into solving the case, and added: "I won't be happy until we resolve the case. I'm not satisfied until that happens."

Authorities have not elaborated on what prompted them to search Rassier's family farm two years ago, saying only that they had probable cause.

Rassier said he mailed the letter on Wednesday to 14 different agencies or state officials, including the Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, the Board on Judicial Standards, as well as the Stearns County administrator and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Gov. Mark Dayton.

The AP reached out to all 14 people to whom Rassier sent the letter. As of Thursday, no one confirmed that the letter had been received.

Rassier said if nothing else comes of the complaints he's lodging, at least he spoke out about what he perceived to be problems with the investigation.

"Like any unsolved crime, Jacob Wetterling and his family along with the public deserve nothing less than the truth," he wrote.

Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling, when reached by the AP on Thursday, said the family was out of town and hadn't seen Rassier's letter. She declined comment.

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