The mother of a Minnesota boy who disappeared 27 years ago at the age of 11 — and whose remains were identified over the weekend — said Monday that the family was "deeply grieving."
"The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together," Patty Wetterling said in a statement posted Monday on the Facebook page for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, an organization started in Jacob's honor to prevent the exploitation of children.
Jacob vanished while on a bike ride home from a convenience store in Stearns County, Minn., in October 1989.
Patty Wetterling, who always kept hope that her son would be found alive, became a national advocate for children. In 1994, Congress passed a law named after Jacob Wetterling requiring states to establish sex offender registries.
For nearly three decades, there was no trace of Jacob. But on Saturday, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office said the boy's remains had been found and positively identified.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Saturday that a person of interest in Jacob's abduction took authorities to a field in central Minnesota where Jacob's buried remains and other evidence were recovered.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
One person of interest in the case, Danny Heinrich, 53, has been held since last October on federal child pornography charges.
Investigators first questioned Heinrich shortly after Jacob's abduction and he has been tied to the kidnapping and sexual assault of another Stearns County boy from the same time period. He was not charged in that case because the statute of limitations had run out, but he is set to face the pornography charges next month.
Heinrich has always maintained he had nothing to do with Jacob's disappearance, and authorities have not publicly said it was Heinrich who led them to Jacob's remains.
Patty Wetterling said in her statement Monday that the family would be "eager" to talk to the media when they are able to do so.
"Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us," the mother said in her statement. "Say a prayer. Light a candle. Be with friends. Play with your children. Giggle. Hold Hands. Eat ice cream. Create joy. Help your neighbor. That is what will bring me comfort today."