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Stearns County: Jacob Wetterling's remains have been found

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Jacob Wetterling
Jacob Wetterling was abducted from St. Joseph, Minn., on Oct. 22, 1989.
Courtesy National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Jacob Wetterling's mother Patty said the remains of her son have been found.

"Our hearts are broken. I am not responding to any media yet as I have no words," Patty Wetterling wrote in a text message to KARE 11.

The Stearns County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Jacob Wetterling's remains had been located. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner and a forensic odontologist identified the remains as Wetterling's Saturday morning.

No one has been arrested or charged in his abduction.

Danny Heinrich
This photo released Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 by the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office, shows Daniel Heinrich. Heinrich was arrested on federal charges stemming from a long-term child exploitation investigation. The FBI says Heinrich is a person of interest in the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling.
Sherburne County Sheriff's Office

But last fall, authorities took another look at the case, and were led to Danny Heinrich, a man they called a "person of interest" in Jacob's kidnapping.

Officials charged Heinrich with possessing child pornography after gathering evidence during a search they said was related to the Wetterling case.

Heinrich denied any involvement in Jacob's abduction, and was not charged with that crime. But he has pleaded not guilty to several federal child pornography charges.

A law enforcement source told The Associated Press on Saturday that Heinrich took authorities to a field last week and remains and other evidence were recovered. The source spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing case. The source did not confirm whether the remains are Jacob's.

The FBI has said that Heinrich matched the general description of a man who assaulted several boys in Paynesville from 1986 to 1988. Earlier this year, Heinrich's DNA was found on the sweatshirt of a 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped from Cold Spring and sexually assaulted nine months before Jacob's abduction.

Heinrich was questioned by authorities shortly after Jacob's disappearance, but he denied involvement. Court documents say his shoes and car tires were "consistent" with tracks left near the site of Jacob's abduction, but couldn't be ruled an exact match. Authorities also searched the home where Heinrich lived with his father at the time and found scanners, camouflage clothing and a picture of a boy wearing underwear.

Heinrich's attorney did not respond to an emailed request for comment Saturday.

Federal authorities also declined to comment.

The disappearance of Jacob remains one of the highest-profile child abduction cases in U.S. history.

Wetterling was 11 when he was abducted by a masked man with a gun on Oct. 22, 1989, in St. Joseph, Minn.

He had been 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.

Hundreds of Minnesota National Guard members, law enforcement officials and volunteers searched for Wetterling in the days after his disappearance.

The Wetterling abduction was one of several cases that horrified parents across the country, and led Congress to enact legislation in 1994 that required states to create sex offender registries.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center posted a statement on its website Saturday, saying they are in "deep grief."

"We didn't want Jacob's story to end this way," the statement said. "Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob's Hope a light that will never be extinguished. ... Jacob, you are loved."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.