Child abductions are rare crimes. And they're typically solved. For 27 years, the investigation into the abduction of Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota yielded no answers. In the most comprehensive reporting on this case, APM Reports and reporter Madeleine Baran reveal how law enforcement mishandled one of the most notorious child abductions in the country and how those failures fueled national anxiety about stranger danger, led to the nation's sex-offender registries and raise questions about crime-solving effectiveness and accountability.
You can listen to the five-part series on Public Radio 89.5 on Thursdays at noon and Fridays at 8:00 p.m. OR listen online.
Missed an episode? Listen here.
Episode One: "The Crime"
January 12 and 13
This episode tells the riveting story of a notorious kidnapping that went unsolved for nearly 27 years and asks the question: Why did it take so long to find the killer? Madeleine and her team demonstrate that law enforcement investigators made crucial errors on the night of the disappearance and in the days afterward. After the episode, Madeleine, Samara and Lizzie discuss how the case led to the development of the federal sex offender registry, and they raise questions about the effectiveness of the registry.
Episode Two: "The Circle"
January 19 and 20
This program details further mistakes of the investigators in the Jacob Wetterling disappearance, showing that law enforcement failed to canvass the neighborhood and missed key witnesses. Madeleine, Samara and Lizzie discuss the overwhelming number of leads the Jacob's family and law enforcement received, and the killer's recent confession.
Episode Three: "The One Who Got Away"
January 26 and 27
The story of Jared Scheirl, who was abducted by the same man who killed Jacob just a few months before Jacob disappeared. It tells how Jared learned that other boys in the town of Paynesville had been grabbed and molested by a man who sounded similar, and how he and those boys came together as adults to try to track that man down. Afterward, Madeleine, Samara and Lizzie discuss Jared's doubts about some details of Danny Heinrich's confession, and explore whether Heinrich continued to attack children in the years he was free.
Episode Four: "Person of Interest"
February 2 and 3
The story of how investigators zeroed in on the wrong guy, ruining his life by naming him a "person of interest." Madeleine, Samara and Lizzie discuss the term "person of interest" and bring in interviews with experts about why the term is gaining currency and what it means.
Episode Five: "What's Going on Down There?"
February 9 and 10
The story of two more cases the Stearns County Sheriff's Department had trouble solving, and a man whose life was ruined when he was wrongly suspected of killing a police officer. It includes data showing a shockingly low clearance rate for major crimes not just in Stearns County but in many other places around the country. Afterward, Madeleine, Samara and Lizzie
These episodes contains material that some listeners may find disturbing.