Editorial: Little Jacob deserves better

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

We, like many people across the state, sat on the edge of our seats Tuesday as we waited to hear if there would be more information given from the man who led authorities to Jacob Wetterling’s buried remains.

While appearing in federal court on separate charges of child pornography, Daniel Heinrich of Annandale confessed to abducting, molesting and killing 11-year-old Jacob. As part of a plea agreement, Heinrich pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography, and he will not be prosecuted for Jacob’s kidnapping and murder.

As part of the agreement, Heinrich is expected to spend 20 years in prison, though he could get committed to the state’s sex offender program after his release from prison.

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Though the agreement was a shock to some, authorities stated that Jacob’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, approved of it beforehand. After all, it was the only way to bring their boy home after almost three decades of uncertainty. We think any parent in that situation would have done the same.

The Tribune chose not to print the full account given by Heinrich of the abduction and subsequent events during the court proceeding.

If you wish to see more details, they have been printed by other news outlets, but we believe Jacob deserves better. We don’t want to give those attention.

What we do want to draw attention to is how we as a community and a state can come together after such a tragic event and prevent something as horrific from happening again.

Though we know that the chance of a stranger abduction is low, it can happen.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2015 assisted law enforcement with more than 13,700 cases of missing children.

Of those cases, 1 percent were non-family abductions — that’s 137 cases. Eighty-six percent were classified as endangered runaways, 10 percent were abducted by a family member and 3 percent were lost, injured or otherwise missing.

No matter what the case, we must be vigilant as a community and watch out for our neighbors.

Stay alert to the happenings in your neighborhood, and report any suspicious behavior. 

Let’s remember Jacob and keep his family’s legacy of light and positive change moving forward.