“Heartbroken’ Paynesville area residents glad there’s an answer in Wetterling case
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. -- At times Monday afternoon, the road alongside a well-grazed pasture near Paynesville was quiet. But most times a slow stream of vehicles moved at a crawl around the curve in the road as drivers and passengers gazed out the w...
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. -- At times Monday afternoon, the road alongside a well-grazed pasture near Paynesville was quiet.
But most times a slow stream of vehicles moved at a crawl around the curve in the road as drivers and passengers gazed out the windows.
Some vehicles parked and people got out -- or got off the bicycles they were riding -- and stood quietly looking at a grove of trees and wetland on a farm site where the remains and clothing of Jacob Wetterling were found last week in this central Mjnnesota town about 95 northwest of Minneapolis.
A group of women in a van placed a potted mum plant in the grass alongside the road where several bunches of artificial flowers were also placed.
They didn’t want to talk about the incident or why they were there, other than to say they felt the community’s grief that Wetterling, missing for nearly 27 years, had been found there.
The shock of that discovery was emotional for John and Carol Plantenberg, who live just down the road and have four sons, including an adult son who was also 11 years old when 11-year-old Jacob was abducted near his St. Joseph home, only about 20 miles away.
The Plantenbergs said their sons used to ride their bicycles on that very road to Paynesville.
“It’s too close for comfort,” Carol Plantenberg said.
Curtis Newberg, of Willmar, stopped his pickup along the road near the makeshift memorial of flowers.
He wanted to be there, he said, because he too had experienced murder in his family and has deep compassion for the Wetterling family and what they’ve experienced. “I know how painful it is and I just wanted to stop,” Newberg said.
Newberg’s wife, Cynthia, was murdered in 1987 in Cosmos and his daughter, Dana, died in 2009 in a suspicious situation that Curtis Newberg said he believes was murder.
“The pain never goes away. It’s always there,” he said.
“I just feel for her,” Newberg said, referring to Jacob’s mom, Patty Wetterling. “At least she has an answer after nearly 27 years.”
Roger Torborg, whose farm equipment business on Minnesota Highway 23 is near the site, said he wasn’t aware that authorities were there last week searching for Wetterling’s remains until he saw it on the news.
“You never expect something like this to happen in your own backyard,” Torborg said. “Everyone is surprised.”
Much of Paynesville was quiet on Monday, which was Labor Day.
Cindy and Jeff Kummer of Richmond had been to the site earlier in the day to pay their respects and then stopped at the Dairy Queen, where they openly talked about the grief they shared with the community.
“It just breaks your heart,” said Cindy Kummer.
The couple said they had driven on that road, and by that farm many times in the past. “Never had a clue that’s where Jacob was,” said Jeff Kummer.
“I’m glad they found him, but it’s been a long time,” said Cindy Kummer “Rest in peace.”
Jacob’s abduction affected how “everybody raised their children since that day,” Jeff Kummer said, adding that some good things have come about since then, including sexual predator laws.
“There’s grief and also a big relief that we can finally put the story to rest,” said Jeff Kummer. “A huge relief that we finally know what happened to him.”
While the community is struggling with how to respond and react, Patty Wetterling offered the following statement:
"The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together. We will be eager to talk to media as soon as we are able.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us.
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.”
The statement signed by Patty Wetterling was shared by the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center on its Facebook page. The center was founded by Patty and Jerry Wetterling after Jacob's abduction.