Why the Wetterling case is newsworthy

“What makes the Jacob Wetterling story so newsworthy?” a colleague rightly asked today.

Jacob Wetterling is, I replied, the poster child for missing children. He, like Adam Walsh, are also the two cases that have changed the nature of social interaction in Minnesota and elsewhere. The threat of stranger abductions has led us to keep a tighter rein on our kids. Visit any basketball court, baseball diamond, or tennis court in the middle of the day in a park these days, and you’ll probably find yourself with some alone time. Is it a justified precaution? The numbers say “no,” but who wants their kid to be the exception?

Twenty-two kids are on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children list of missing children from Minnesota. Eleven of them are believed to have been taken by their mother or father. A handful of the people on the list were in their late teens and are believed to have run away.

In addition to Jacob Wetterling, only five on the list were 15 or younger:

Kevin Ayotte disappeared from Sugarbush in 1982. He was 3.

Amy Pagnac was 13 when she was last seen at an Osseo gas station.

Corrine Erstad was 5 when she went missing. A man was charged with her murder. Her blood-stained sundress was found in a storage he rented, but after a 5 1/2 month trial, a jury acquitted the man. Her body has not been found despite searches of a marsh in Oakdale.

Aaron Anderson disappeared from Pine City when he was 2.

Leanna Warner was 5 when last seen in Chisholm.

What makes Jacob Wetterling’s situation newsworthy is that stranger abductions in Minnesota almost never happen. And if it turns out a neighbor was involved in Wetterling’s disappearance, it didn’t happen to him, either.