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Timeline: 27 years of agony in Jacob Wetterling case

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Near the site Jacob's body was found.
Flowers and a balloon left near the farm in Paynesville, Minn., where Jacob Wetterling's remains were found.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Jacob Wetterling was missing for 27 years before authorities found his remains and a man confessed to the kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing the boy. 

Here's a snapshot of what happened since Jacob was taken.

Jacob Wetterling
Jacob Wetterling
Courtesy of Wetterling family

1989: The abduction

Danny Heinrich confronts 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, his brother and a friend while they're out renting a movie on Oct. 22, 1989, in St. Joseph, Minn. Heinrich — wearing a mask and carrying a gun — takes Jacob. 

Heinrich sexually abuses Jacob and shoots him twice, according to court testimony on Sept. 6, 2016.

He digs Jacob's grave with a Bobcat and doesn't bury the boy's shoes, according to the testimony.

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

Where Jacob Wetterline was last seen by friends
The intersection at 16th Avenue Southeast where Jacob Wetterling was last seen by his friends on Oct. 22, 1989.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Twenty-six years would pass before Heinrich's name publicly surfaces in relation to the investigation of Jacob's disappearance. 

1990: The Jacob Wetterling Foundation

Patty Wetterling
Patty Wetterling, Jacob's mom
Brian Peterson | Star Tribune via AP 2015 file

Supporters form what is now known as the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.

A year after the kidnapping, Heinrich returns to where he buried Jacob and notices his jacket is partially exposed, according to his 2016 testimony. He puts the boy's bones and clothes in a bag so he can move and rebury them, according to his confession.

1994: Federal legislation to register sex offenders

Congress passes a crime bill that includes the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sex Offender Registration Act, which required states to register and track sex offenders. 

2009: Two decades missing

The 20th anniversary of Jacob's disappearance attracts renewed attention to his case. Investigators had looked into tens of thousands of tips since 1989, but made little progress. 

2010: No new evidence after Stearns County farm search

Digging near Wetterling site
Investigators use a tractor-mounted backhoe to dig just southeast of the Rassier farm in St. Joseph on July 1, 2010.
Kimm Anderson | St. Cloud Times via AP file

Authorities converge on a Stearns County farm over the summer but come back with no new evidence

May 2014: More potential links

Stearns County investigators look at whether several assaults against teenage boys in another town in the years before Jacob's disappearance are connected to the case.

Fall 2015: Person of interest charged

Federal investigators arrest Danny Heinrich on child pornography charges, and name him a "person of interest" in the Wetterling case, declining to offer many details.

Danny Heinrich
This photo released Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 by the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office, shows Daniel Heinrich, who was arrested on federal charges stemming from a long-term child exploitation investigation.
Sherburne County Sheriff's Office

Jared Scheierl, who was sexually assaulted months before Jacob was taken, describes Heinrich's arrest as "surreal." A man had sexually assaulted Scheierl and threatened to kill him, later letting him go. Authorities say they found Heinrich's DNA on Scheierl's sweatshirt.

2016: Jacob's remains found, Heinrich confesses

• April: Heinrich's lawyers allege illegal search

Danny Heinrich's lawyers say authorities illegally searched his home while seeking evidence in Jacob's abduction. They also say they want his trial on pornography charges moved. The case would never go to trial.

• June: Lengthy filing describes Heinrich's link to case

The Pioneer Press reports on June 2 that a new court document details why investigators consider Heinrich a "person of interest" in Jacob's abduction.

• September: Jacob's remains identified; a confession in court

On Saturday, Sept. 3, Stearns County officials announce that they have found Jacob's remains, leaving much of central Minnesota in a state of sadness and relief

                                                                  Heinrich confesses to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Jacob in a plea hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 6. He describes the events in graphic detail. Heinrich also confesses to sexually assaulting Jared Scheierl.

The confessions are part of a plea deal in which Heinrich would not be charged for Jacob's murder. 

Heinrich is expected to be sentenced later this fall to 20 years in prison on federal child pornography charges.