Parents Still Searching for Missing Boy 25 Years Later
Family of Jacob Wetterling, abducted at age 11 in Minn., keep focus on his case
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2014 1:48 PM CDT
This image combo provided by the Wetterling family and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows Jacob Wetterling at the age of 11, left, and in an age-progressed simulation.   (AP Photo/Wetterling family, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

(Newser) – Twenty-five years is a long stretch by most measures, but especially when a parent is looking for a missing child. Patty and Jerry Wetterling of Minnesota have known this interminable passing of time since their 11-year-old son, Jacob, was abducted on Oct. 22, 1989. But as the 25th anniversary of his disappearance approaches, the Wetterlings still refuse to give up their search, the St. Cloud Times reports. Six new billboards have been placed around St. Cloud with Jacob's picture as an 11-year-old, an age-enhanced photo showing what he could look like now at age 36, and the 1-800-THE-LOST phone number for tips, the Star Tribune reports. Jacob was riding his bike with his brother and a friend when they were reportedly approached by a masked gunman, who ordered the boys to get down, then took off with Jacob.

More than 50,000 leads have poured in since 1989, the Times notes, including the discovery in May that six unsolved sexual assaults in the area were never examined after Jacob disappeared, WCCO reports. And keeping Jacob's case (recently featured on John Walsh's The Hunt) in the public eye is key: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says 42 children gone more than 20 years were found between 2009 and 2013—a fact that's not lost on those looking for Jacob. "We'll treat [a new tip] with the same energy and enthusiasm as if it was one day old, not 25 years old," the Stearns County sheriff tells the Times. Jacob's dad implores the public: "Listen to something that is said innocently at a cafe. ... Something you hear that … inside of your gut didn't feel right." The billboards will stay up through the end of October.