Each year on his birthday, Feb. 17, his mother writes him a letter, only thing is, she can’t give it to him. He’s been missing since 1989.
“We’ve had a rather explosive year in the search for Jason and I was grappling with the fact that he is 38,” Patty Wetterling, his mother, told ABC news. “He was 11 [when he went missing] and I was like ‘How could this be?’”
Jacob went missing after riding his bicycle to a nearby convenience store with his brother and a friend Oct. 22, 1989. On their way home, a man wearing a mask and holding a gun stopped them. The man told them to throw their bikes in the ditch and get face down on the ground. After asking their ages the man told two of the boys to run into the woods. As they ran, they glanced back and saw the gunman grab Jacob’s arm. They kept running for the woods and when they looked back again, both the man and Jacob were gone.
"Birthdays are supposed to be about parties, hats and noisemakers, cake, ice cream, friends singing and making wishes but not yet. Not this year, again. How I wish to wrap my arms around you and hug you tight! I have watched the tape of your last birthday party over and over. We rented a suite at the Holiday Inn for your party. You and Aaron raced back and forth in the pool and took turns throwing each other in the deep end. It was so much fun!
"I want you to know that since you were stolen away from us, people everywhere have been searching, praying and hoping for your safety and for answers. Last fall, 26 years later, news of possible answers had your story as the number two news coverage in the region. That’s pretty amazing 26 years later. People care. There are more good people than bad in the world and people still hope.
"My birthday wish is for you to come home. We need to find you. I have another wish for every child who is home safe today, that they will never have to endure abduction or sexual exploitation of any type. We are working just as hard on prevention as we are on searching because this is so wrong…so unfair. I remember how much it bothered you when things were unfair. Me too, it bothers me too.
"I am hoping and praying that people will remember you on February 17 and we ask that everyone hug their kids a little tighter, tell them that they love them and take time to play a game or read books. My wish is also that parents will support agencies that help to find our missing kids and help other victims. Today, we ask everyone to volunteer, attend events, send financial support and share safety information. The non-profit work continues on a daily basis. Sometimes sexual exploitation and abduction are on the news, and sometimes not, yet we all rely on the support and expertise of these agencies when we need them. They are there for us. They need our support as well.
"And once again today, February 17, we will light our candles, fix your favorite foods and cake, and thank God for the gift of you.
"We love you Jacob and we’ll never stop searching for you!