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'Dark Day' Ahead As Wetterling Case Files Made Public Thursday

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's been nearly 30 years since Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped, and two years since Danny Heinrich confessed to killing him.

Now, most of the case will be made public. WCCO has learned Stearns County will release more than 40,000 pages of documents on Thursday.

Like everyone we talked to on the sidewalks of downtown St. Joseph, Daryl Stevens doesn't believe there's much of a point to release a mound of documents related to Jacob Wetterling's disappearance.

"I think it's just best to leave it alone," Stevens said.

"I understand the Wetterling's feel like their privacy is being invaded and I get that," he added.

In a statement Wednesday, the Wetterling's said: "Tomorrow, the investigative file in the search for Jacob will be released. It is difficult for us to relive those dark days. With time, our family is healing and getting stronger and we appreciate all of the efforts to make things better for future victims of crime, their families and for all of us. Our hearts hurt for anyone who is pained or hurt from the release of this file. Clearly, changes are still needed.

Hug your children. Tell them how unique and special they are. Say a prayer. Light a candle. Hold hands. Be with friends and always hope."

The family sued the county when the paperwork would have been public two years ago, after Danny Heinrich confessed to kidnapping and killing Jacob on Oct. 22, 1989. Under the law, a criminal case is public once it's closed. But, media outlets joined the lawsuit, fighting for their release.

WCCO-TV was not a part of that lawsuit.

Robert Dudley studied the case for his books about the kidnapping.

"I don't think anything positive is going to come from the release," he said.

He believes the file will only show all of the stray paths investigators were led down, from tips about suspicious neighbors or cross-country crime sprees. In all, Stearns County told WCCO 41, 787 pages will be public.

A judge ordered the return of 4,000 pages to the FBI.  Those will be left out.

"I really don't understand all the fuss over these documents, no," Dudley said.

Dudley doesn't expect anything big. He says the most relevant information pointing to Danny Heinrich just days after Jacob went missing have already been released and widely reported.

"I think as far as the public is concerned they're saying enough is enough. The case was solved let's just let Jacob rest in peace," he said.

WCCO plans to look closely at the files before reporting any specifics out of respect for the family. We will only post select documents we've reviewed on our website, not the entire case file.

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