For nearly 27 years, Patty and Jerry Wetterling held out hope that they’d one day find their abducted son. The boy’s remains were identified on Saturday, and the tireless advocates are now asking for help as they grieve.
Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped at gunpoint in 1989 while riding his bicycle near his home in central Minnesota. The case captured national headlines, and the Wetterlings became vocal proponents for better protections for children, which helped lead to the national sex offender registry, according to NPR.
Danny James Heinrich, 53, brought police to the boy’s remains on Saturday and confessed to the murder the following week. After authorities identified the 11-year-old’s remains, the Wetterlings released a statement saying they’re not yet ready to talk to the media. They also offered a list of simple things people can do to offer support.
”The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together,” Patty Wetterling said in a statement posted to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center Facebook page.
“Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us,” she added.
Here are the things she suggested:
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Be with friends.
Play with your children.
Eat ice cream.
Help your neighbor.
“That is what will bring me comfort today,” she said.
Authorities didn’t say where or how Jacob’s remains were found, but noted that the boy was identified through dental records. Last October, Danny James Heinrich was named a person of interest in the Wetterling case and authorities announced separate federal charges for child pornography, according to Reuters.
In addition to pushing for legislation to protect against sex offenders, the Wetterlings have been advocating through their nonprofit, the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. The organization works to educate families and communities to prevent the exploitation of children.
“Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished,” the Wetterlings said in a statement on Saturday. “It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope. Jacob, you are loved.”
Learn more about the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center here and donate to the organization through the widget below.
This story was updated on Sept. 9, 2016 to include new information about the Jacob Wetterling case.