The Jacob Wetterling abduction

Wetterling files to be released Thursday

Jacob Wetterling red jacket
Deputy Lt. Kent Christensen displays a jacket similar to one worn by 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling as law officers began a search Oct. 26, 1989, on horseback near a river by St. Joseph, Minn., five days after the boy was abducted at gunpoint by a masked man.
Jim Mone | AP 1989

Many of the documents covering the 27-year investigation into Jacob Wetterling's 1989 kidnapping will be released publicly Thursday for the first time.

Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson has scheduled a press conference at 10:06 a.m. at the law enforcement center in downtown St. Cloud.

Gudmundson will give a presentation on the key elements of the case and take questions from the media. A thumb drive with the files will be available afterward.

A memorial of flowers
A memorial of flowers is growing larger in front of the Wetterling home in St Joseph, Minn. Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News 2016

Jacob Wetterling was 11 years old when he was kidnapped by a masked man on Oct. 22, 1989, while biking home with his brother and best friend along a rural St. Joseph, Minn., road.

The crime sent shock waves throughout the community and set off a massive search effort that generated tips and leads from around the world. It remained one of the most perplexing and haunting unsolved cases in Minnesota history until two years ago.

In September 2016, Danny Heinrich confessed to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Jacob and led authorities to his remains on a Paynesville farm.

Under Minnesota law, criminal investigations become public once the case has been closed.

Jacob's parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, sued to stop Stearns County from releasing 168 pages out of the tens of thousands of pages in the file, saying they contained personal information about their marriage and family. In April, a judge ruled that the documents must be released.

Memorial for Jacob Wetterling
Members of Jacob Wetterling's family -- Jacob's mother Patty, brother Trevor, father Jerry and sister Amy -- stand together on the stage of the Clemens Field House while his sister Carmen speaks at a memorial for Jacob.
Evan Frost | MPR News File

However, she also agreed to a request from the U.S. Department of Justice that all federal documents in the file be returned to the FBI. Requests for those documents must go through a separate process under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Stearns County officials have said the remaining documents will be released with limited redactions.

Gudmundson was appointed as an interim replacement for John Sanner, who retired in April 2017 after 14 years as Stearns County sheriff. His term expires at the end of this year, and Gudmundson is not running in the November election.

As part of a plea agreement, Heinrich was sentenced to 20 years in prison on a child pornography charge in exchange for confessing to Jacob's kidnapping and murder and leading authorities to his remains.

Heinrich is listed as an inmate at the Federal Medical Center, Devens, a federal prison in Ayer, Mass.