"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)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sifting through rubble in Jacob Wetterling affair

Where does one begin, sifting through thoughts as we learn the discovery of Jacob Wetterling's body? After so many years, I think most of us became doubtful this would ever happen. At least his body was resting in peace all these years, buried but with no marker.
Even the mafia has trouble getting rid of bodies. So how did this unsophisticated perpetrator manage to so effectively have the body disposed for so long? It was on someone's farm property. The property owner was completely uncooperative with the media at first. Why not just a general comment about what a relief we all feel knowing the resolution?
The perp would have needed considerable time getting that grave dug, correct? How could he have done this unobserved? Where did he park his car? Wouldn't the ground have looked disturbed in that spot? Oh, here we go with questions again, endless questions. Law enforcement had something like 50,000 tips or leads. Wouldn't it be neat to read through all of them to see the ridiculousness of most?
Just think of the law enforcement time and resources that were eaten up by this episode. That's the second tragedy, added to the primary tragedy of what happened to young Mr. Wetterling. How did the perp end up in that spot to accost those boys? Why did he think a victim was likely to come along while he lurked, a victim conforming exactly to what he "wanted." How could he pull off the whole thing so cleanly? How was the murder executed?
It very nearly became a "perfect crime," pulled off by this forlorn individual who it seems had serious problems stemming in part from a childhood in which he was sexually abused. He shoplifted items that weren't worth shoplifting. He was able to hold a job in Willmar. Someone familiar with him from his childhood said "he needed help." That may well be true but it's hard finding real sympathy. How could such an unsophisticated and troubled person commit this crime and stay free from getting charged over such a huge span of time?
I saw the Wetterling family walk out to the center of the court for the first-ever Minnesota Timberwolves home opener. The fans applauded lustily, though I wondered how this would accomplish anything. The perp was sitting comfortably somewhere, knowing all the facts. Should he be hanged from the highest rafter? I think not. Considering his apparent background that included victimization, let's just make sure he's put away somewhere.
Maybe there was a plea agreement helping bring this case to resolution. The Wetterling family was consulted, I'm sure, on whether an agreement was acceptable. For the sake of our whole ordeal being over, such a thing was deemed practical, I'm sure.
This was no Ted Bundy being targeted in the investigation, it was a person with serious limitations, prompting maybe a little sympathy? I don't know, but I had that impulse tugging at me for a moment or two. Many people are born with sexual urges that make them do criminal things. Should we blame God? How curious our human species is. Maybe there is no God. Maybe us humans are the products of breeding between Earth primates and space aliens. Maybe this explains the mystery that surrounds so much of our nature.
A tragic consequence of the abduction episode is how many innocent people got dragged in, being forced to account for themselves, having to answer questions just on the basis of "maybe they saw something helpful." But years after the incident, people need to be left alone. Simply being accosted by FBI people is traumatic, because you never know what could happen once you start talking to law enforcement.
Innocent people have a right not to be subject to an undue amount of this kind of stress. Why did it happen? For one thing, a child has simply vanished - anyone could be a suspect. A sketch artist who was in the area had to explain himself. A person who showed up shortly after the incident, because he heard about it on his police scanner, had to explain himself.
But Exhibit 'A' of harassment pertains to poor Mr. Dan Rassier, who I think should launch a major lawsuit now. I played in the trumpet section of the St. Cloud State University concert band for a time with Mr. Rassier, back in the disco '70s. He was chair-conscious which is part of the stereotype of trumpet players (i.e. wanting to be "first chair"). His life was disrupted in a major way. His family's property in St. Joseph was by where the abduction happened.
How would you like it if something like this happened in your neighborhood? In every neighborhood in America, there's at least one person who might be deemed a little eccentric or with a checkered background. Let's hoist this person up as a target for suspicions, right? In Rassier's case, apparently he had trouble submitting totally consistent facts re. the notorious day when it happened. Boy, I can sure see why defense attorneys have as a tenet of their specialty "don't say any more than you have to. Stay quiet."
I might have a hard time remembering what I had for supper last night, seriously. Heaven help most of us if we were to be called into a police interrogation room. The distress with Mr. Rassier reached a point where he was named a "person of interest." Really? How come we didn't see huge headlines about this? The press was restrained with many of its members reluctant to even report Mr. Rassier's name. Why? It was because of judgment applied by those media members, who probably felt skeptical. When the current, true perp became the prime suspect, the media had no problem splashing huge headlines. Why? The media applied the judgment that "this really is the guy."
The Star Tribune never reported on the episode here in Morris involving the high school principal being charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct. I personally called in a tip to them, because I still consider myself a dedicated journalist. The Strib didn't act, possibly because their people applied their own judgment. "This case won't fly - it seems absurd."
Of course, media people aren't supposed to apply their own judgment - a message I got over many years at our Sun Tribune, through times when our community was gripped by controversy as with youth sports.
This Sanner fellow of Stearns County law enforcement says bloggers like Joy Baker can "speculate, whereas we can't do that." The quote was part of the John Walsh TV special. Can't speculate, my ass. What happened with Dan Rassier? That was speculation run wild.
You know what? Now that the Wetterling case is over, I think St. Joseph should proclaim a "Dan Rassier Day" complete with a parade and confetti. His exoneration needs to be trumpeted to the world. Was law enforcement, in its persecution of the guy, just trying to show the public it was making progress in this maddening case? So, it was political. What a tangled web we weave.
I think the time is ripe for Hollywood to plan a movie about Joy the Blogger or "Joy the Curious," Joy Baker. The movie would celebrate the transition in our society to online writers a.k.a. bloggers, being a bona fide force for good. Joy Baker sought only the truth. She wouldn't be distracted by the kind of turf considerations, i.e. jurisdictional matters, that really sidetracked law enforcement, literally preventing resolution of the case, one could argue. And yet "bloggers can speculate" as this pathetic Mr. Sanner said. Well, thank goodness they could.
A tremendous movie could be spun from this. My God, we had the "Paynesville cluster" of incidents that were crying out for attention. What of the conduct of Paynesville law enforcement? I have suggested before, and will repeat, that law enforcement there should have sent out a "decoy," a lone child of the right age, to draw out the perp. Law enforcement inexplicably seemed to sit on their hands.
Years rolled by. Finally Joy Baker, having been put at centerstage by John Walsh, shook everything up and put in motion the momentum toward resolution. It was the media! Thank God for the media. Just think of the books that will now be written. Even my blog post today might attract a fair amount of readership.
Law enforcement showed serious shortcomings, perhaps distracted by the need to issue countless seat belt citations, so to raise revenue for the state. I can live with law enforcement as long as they don't blow people's heads off who get pulled over in traffic stops. I salute Colin Kaepernick.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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