MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Few Minnesota crimes are as notorious as the unsolved abduction of Jacob Wetterling. A masked stranger grabbed the 11-year-old as he biked home from a store in St. Joseph on October 22, 1989.
Nearly 25 years later, everyone remembers Wetterling's name. But many have likely never heard of Jared. Just nine months before Wetterling disappeared, a stranger kidnapped that 12-year-old boy in nearby Cold Spring.
Six weeks after Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped, FBI Special Agent Jeff Jamar announced they had knowledge of the other victim.
Jared, speaking publicly for the first time in years, told WCCO-TV's Esme Murphy, "This guy stepped out of a vehicle, said 'I have a gun I am not afraid to use it. Get into the vehicle.'"
The man who had a police scanner in his car drove Jared to this remote site, sexually assaulted him, then let him go.
"I was told to run don't look back or he would shoot," Jared said.
His description of the kidnapper's threat is almost identical to the one described by Jacob Wetterling's friend, Aaron.
"He grabbed Jacob and told me to run as fast as he could or he would shoot," Trevor Wetterling said.
For Jared, the weeks after the Wetterling abduction were filled with grueling interviews with law enforcement.
"They brought me to a point where I broke down, just mentally broke down. They wanted the answer and I didn't have the answer," Jared said. "My parents made that decision we should move."
Jared left Cold Spring, and for 25 years anniversaries passed with no answers and no arrests.
"I learned how to focus on other things," Jared said.
That all changed last August when Jared was contacted by Joy Baker, the author of a detailed blog on the Wetterling case. Baker had uncovered newspaper articles about a series of sexual assaults in Paynesville in 1986 and 1987, two years before Jacob Wetterling and Jared's kidnappings. Paynesville is just a few miles from where both boys were abducted.
WEB EXTRA: Read Joy Baker's Blog
The police reports and newspaper articles cited by Baker reveal striking parallels between the cases. The boys were all attacked as they headed home on bikes, they were sexually assaulted, the attacker wore a mask, had a low voice and threatened victims with a knife or gun.
Jared believes the same person who took him not only took Jacob Wetterling but is also behind the Paynesville attacks.
"When I first saw them, there was a big sigh that I am not the only one who had made eye contact with this person," Jared said.
For the past nine months, Jared has worked with Baker to try encourage witnesses to come forward.
"I think it's time for people to share their stories," Baker said.
At the same time, Jared worries about the Paynesville victims.
"I apologize to the victims and people that we have already talked to, that we are going to talk to about bringing up 27-year-old repressed memories," he said.
Over the years Jared and Jacob Wetterling's mother have become friends.
"I am so grateful to Jared and Joy digging," Patty Wetterling said.
She too is hoping someone will come forward for the Paynesville victims, for Jared and for her son.
"I do think there is a strong possibility they could be connected," she said. "Every one of these victims needs answers. Are they tied to Jacob? Let's find out."
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office is now actively investigating all of the Paynesville cases to see if they are connected to Jacob Wetterling's disappearance.
If you have any information about the Paynesville attacks or the Wetterling case, please call the Stearns County Sheriff at (320) 251-4240. You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
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