"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Jacob Wetterling case: where to now?

John Walsh, TV sleuth
We're hearing that something revelatory has happened in the Jacob Wetterling case. The case began so many years ago.
We thought not long ago that a John Walsh TV special had it all figured out. Actually the Walsh show gave attention to a New London blogger who seemed to have it figured out. The blogger came off as a hero. But then, there was no law enforcement follow-up to confirm the apparent revelations. The blogger was left sort of drifting, as bloggers often are. I joked with someone: "She looks like a typical aimless blogger with too much time on her hands."
The Walsh TV special was overseen by the slick entertainment industry. In other words, it was orchestrated to be sensational. I got fooled, thinking immediately that this painful, seemingly never-ending case was over.
I remember being at the first-ever Minnesota Timberwolves regular season home opener in 1989. I was in a motorcoach party that I think was overseen by the Anderson boys of Elmer's. The Wetterling tragedy was very fresh. The family was there at the Metrodome which was the Timberwolves' home their first year. The Wetterlings came to the center of the court to a thunderous ovation. I thought it was a little curious because I couldn't see what this was supposed to accomplish.
It's mystifying to me how a kid like Jacob could just vanish with no viable leads for resolution of the case to come about, not for years and years. I have read that even the mafia has trouble getting rid of a body. Would this new suspect have the sophistication to cover his tracks so well? (Technically he's a "person of interest.")
The speculation has gone in all directions. Someone wondered if it was a person in law enforcement who abducted Jacob. In other words, someone with the sophistication to possibly pull it off. Speculation, speculation. Why would this new suspect choose to "crouch in the bushes" as it were, waiting to assault, when I assume there was no guarantee those kids (of a perfect age for him) would come walking along within the next several hours? Was he willing to position himself there indefinitely? Or was it someone with specific knowledge that certain kids were going to meander along that road within a certain time frame?
 
Errant finger-pointing
Then we have the sad case of that man who happened to live by the abduction scene, whose life I'm sure has been changed by the suspicions. You may have read about him: that music instructor who lives with his parents. Is this the reason he was made a "person of interest," the fact he lived an atypical lifestyle, with his parents?
The Wetterling case has always been a good example of why the world needs good defense attorneys. Minus absolutely convincing evidence, there will be victims of undue suspicion. This can be very sad and damaging. People who were in the vicinity at the time have had to explain themselves, sometimes more than once. I believe there was a sketch artist known to be in the area. Better explain yourself, guy.
 
Grist for authors
I know of two people who claim to be working on books on the Wetterling case. One emailed me after my previous post on the subject. This was shortly after the Walsh TV special, and it was clear I was very impressed by that special. I guess I was a sucker for the entertainment industry's machinations. I suggested we could assume the case had been "cracked."
The author who emailed me, named Rob Ebben, wondered how I could form such a conclusion on the basis of that show. There has been a vacuum in the case since then. Then we get the news the other day: new "break" or "link" in Wetterling case. How much of a "break" is it, really? We learn of this guy who everyone would call a "creep." I won't argue with that designation.
Do we really know he's the guilty party? Why would he travel so far to that out-of-the-way location to do his horrible misdeed? Even if he did, how could he have felt confident that his absolutely perfect "prey" would come along that road within a reasonable time frame?
Absent concrete evidence, I think all we know now, that we didn't know before, is that this "creep" was living in a seedy Paynesville apartment in 1989. I'm not even prepared to make a moral judgment about him because I think God, for reasons only known to him, created people like this, like pedophile priests, who have compulsions the rest of us can't understand. Wasn't Kevin Bacon in a movie about a pedophile who came across as sympathetic because he was a victim of his compulsion?
Such people must be segregated from the rest of society, of course. They do things that normal people would never consider doing. As for why they're on this Earth in the first place, you'll have to ask God.
This new suspect needs a good attorney like everyone accused of a crime. If he killed someone, he'll have to be hanged from the highest rafter. But haven't the media already suggested he's guilty?
A word like "break" (in the case) suggests as much. It's pejorative because it really seems to suggest "guilty." That's not how our system is supposed to work. A surprising percentage of our human population have issues with sexual inclinations that can make them dangerous or unacceptable within normal society.
 
Understanding dangerous perversions
My take? I think this phenomenon might reflect how the human race is actually a hybrid species from space aliens and Earth primates. I guess that means I'm an atheist or non-believer. Perhaps so.
I emailed Rob Ebben to suggest that he emphasize the following angle in his book: a kid just vanishes and then anyone could be a suspect. Just think of all the collateral damage - innocent people having to be put on the defensive, like that person who stopped by the abduction scene shortly after it happened, because he'd heard about it on his police scanner. Absent any tangible leads, anyone can have the finger pointed at him.
No. 1 on the collateral damage list is that music teacher, victim of the coincidence that he lived by where it happened. He is in position now, I feel, to sue for a windfall. If the case ever reaches finality - I'm not sure it will - his community ought to schedule a special day in his honor, trumpeting to the world that he was just a normal guy victimized by law enforcement.
All the headlines of last week pushed us to think we're finally at resolution, or close to it, or reasonably close to it, or whatever. Sigh. We may stay in the wilderness for a very long time. It's just a lot of flailing around, like when the Wetterling family got that ovation at the Metrodome.
Don't hold your breath. If this new suspect is guilty, maybe he could point out where the remains are, and authorities could then confirm the identity of the remains. Then we'll know. Can law enforcement negotiate some sort of deal with him now? He's in trouble for misdeeds having nothing to do with Wetterling. Could the legal minds offer him incarceration in a more humane setting than would otherwise be the case? Is that in the cards? Would it work? But what if he is innocent?
I'll say this: Central Minnesota seems a more dangerous place to live, than out here in West Central Minnesota. I recall no whispers about sexual predators on the loose among us, when I was a kid at East Elementary. Not like Paynesville, that's for sure. Did law enforcement in Paynesville ever consider sending out a "decoy" to try to coax out the perp?
BTW the other author I'm aware of, besides Ebben, working on a Wetterling book is Scott Thoma. Scott's the former West Central Tribune sports editor who I believe left that paper under less than amicable circumstances. Forum Communications has a way of getting certain people to just mosey on down the road. Ethical? No.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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