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Jan 7th, 2009

Update: September 3, 2016 Breaking News

Jacob Wetterling’s Remains Found in Central Minnesota

“This area is dedicated to our friend Jacob and other missing children”Paddy_JacobGarden-1_10-09-2008
Inscribed stone slab in Jacob’s Garden at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, taken Oct. 9, 2008. (Photo: Aubrey Immelman)



Like so many seemingly promising leads in the search for Jacob Wetterling’s abductor, the latest lead, too, appears to lead nowhere. Following is initial reporting from WTMJ television in Milwaukee, followed by subsequent reporting from Twin Cities and Milwaukee media.

Confession of a Killer?

By Melanie Stout and Dan O’Donnell
January 7, 2009

MILWAUKEE — Did a barber lying on his deathbed confess to killing two young boys?

Vernon Seitz allegedly told his doctor in mid-December that he killed two children in 1958, but died of natural causes before police could question him.

According to a search warrant obtained by TODAY’S TMJ 4, “during an emergency sweep of Seitz’s residence officers noticed newly poured cement in Seitz’s basement” and “elevated dirt piles in the yard and bondage devices in the basement, hanging from the floor rafters.”

*** WARNING: Contains graphic content ***
Click here to read to read the search warrant [.tif file]
*** WARNING: Contains graphic content ***

Investigators also found “child pornography on Seitz’s bed approximately 4-5 feet from where Seitz had died” as well as “Missing flyers of small children from nearby states and communities, along with news articles of missing children” and “books on how to perform cannibalism.”

Among the Missing flyers were those depicting Jacob Wetterling, who was 11 years old when he disappeared from his home in St. Joseph, Minnesota in October of 1989, and Michael Dunahee, who was just 5 when he vanished from Vancouver, British Columbia in May of 1991.

It is unclear whether Seitz had any involvement in either of those cases, but his alleged deathbed confession raised numerous questions, especially since police found children’s shoes in Seitz’s home. …

Seitz grew up in Racine, and while his sister-in-law called him a gentle man who loved children, neighbors told their kids to stay away from him. …

Susan Seitz, though, said Vernon was abducted and abused as a boy and believes his interest in child abductions stemmed from this experience.

“Vernon went to [Jacob Wetterling’s] parents and confided in them and told them ‘Jake is in heaven,'” she said, adding that she doesn’t know whether he really could have killed two children 50 years ago. …

The former head of Wisconsin’s FBI office, though, thinks Seitz’s confession could be believable.

“I think it would be something to take very seriously and coupled with what was found through the search warrant, I would give it great credibility,” said retired agent Mike Santimauro. “I think folks always have the potential to act out their fantasies, and sometimes they do.”

Santimauro focused in on a list of drawings found in Seitz’s house that police say depict naked boys being abused and questioned whether Seitz himself could have drawn them. …

Video: Confession of a Killer?


Related reports

Psychiatrist: Seitz on ‘Mission of Mercy’ (Jan. 7, 2009)

Milwaukee Police Department investigates Seitz’s past
(Jan. 12, 2009)

Confessions of a killer? MPD look into Seitz’s past (Jan. 13, 2009)


Jacob Wetterling’s Father Reacts to Milwaukee Investigation

By Scott Seroka
KARE 11 News (NBC)
Twin Cities
January 6, 2009

Jerry Wetterling says it is too early to invest any emotion into the recent findings of the Milwaukee Police Department. Jerry’s son, Jacob Wetterling, was abducted in St. Joseph in October of 1989.

A few weeks ago, police searched the Milwaukee home of Vernon Seitz and found missing posters for Jacob, a map of St. Joseph, and video of the boy before he was abducted.

“For some reason, I don’t think this is the one, but that’s my gut sense,” Jerry said Tuesday afternoon.

Police in Milwaukee are not making a connection with what they found at Seitz’s home and the disappearance of Wetterling almost 20 years ago. Seitz recently died, before investigators had the chance to question him.

“As to where it leads, you know, it’s all very fresh to me. I just heard about it so I’m kind of like you, waiting to hear more,” Jacob’s father said. “I was just thinking back, it’s been a year and a half or 2 years that we had a real substantial lead,” he added.

Over the years, hundreds have offered the family help as they continued to search for Jacob. Jerry Wetterling says the name Vernon Seitz is more than familiar. “He was one of more than a few that actually made the trip and came out. He planned a summer vacation. He was a barber and this was his summer vacation. I think it was the first year after (the abduction) or the next, he came out for almost a week,” Jerry recalls.

But he will forever remain hopeful that someday, he’ll find the answer he and his wife have been searching for. He continues to a wear a button bearing his missing son’s picture everyday. “Jacob’s always with me. This is just kind of my little way to keep him close to my heart,” Jerry Wetterling said.


1/8/2009 Update: Related story

In St. Joseph, Pain of Jacob Wetterling’s Abduction is Still Near the Surface

By Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer Press (St. Paul)
January 8, 2009


ST. JOSEPH, Minn. — Every day, Jerry Wetterling wears a button featuring his son’s picture.

Remembering Jacob Wetterling — and wondering what happened to him — might not be a daily habit for other Minnesotans, but his abduction continues to resonate nearly 20 years later.

A reminder of how much the public still cares came this week, when news broke of a Milwaukee man with a possible link to Jacob’s case. Vernon Seitz, who had confessed to killing two children in the 1950s and died last month, was found to have news clippings and photos of young Jacob, along with child pornography and books on cannibalism, in his home.

Milwaukee police say they have found no connection between Seitz and Jacob’s abduction or any other child abduction. Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said Wednesday that his office worked with Milwaukee police and agree there is no reason to believe Seitz was involved in Jacob’s kidnapping.

Here in Jacob’s hometown, people have grown accustomed to leads that go nowhere. …

It’s rare when a child is kidnapped by a stranger, and such cases usually garner a lot of attention, but elements of Jacob’s case have made it “really hit home for lots of people in Minnesota, across America and literally around the world,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. …

Jacob’s parents’ activism also has made a difference, Allen said. Patty Wetterling, who is a board member at Allen’s organization, “has shared her pain with millions of people, and people understood,” he said. …

Around St. Joseph, people talk about closure — wanting it for the community, and especially for Jacob’s family.

“The family’s really connected to the community and when this happened, it was devastating,” said Janelle Von Pinnon, who owns the St. Joseph Newsleader. “We took it hard as a town. Every time there’s a lead and it falls through, it just breaks your heart.”

The attention the case still receives is a double-edged sword for the family, Jerry Wetterling said Wednesday, in his chiropractic office in St. Joseph.

“I would hate it if there was no interest; we would feel so alone,” he said. “The more eyes and ears out there looking and listening for clues and information, the better.

“On the other end, every time a situation like yesterday (the possible connection to the Milwaukee man) occurs, it brings back the first few days. Last evening, I could feel my heart beating much faster than it normally does. Our children (now 27, 29 and 33) get very disturbed,” he said. …


Milwaukee Police Say No Link to Wetterling Case

Twin Cities
January 6, 2009

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Milwaukee police say there is no link between a man’s murder confession, evidence found at his home, and the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling.

Police received a tip in mid-December that Vernon Seitz, 62, confessed to his psychiatrist that he had killed two children, according to information in a search warrant [.pdf], obtained by WTMJ-TV, Milwaukee.

On Tuesday, the psychiatrist, Victoria Fetter, told KARE 11 the police information was wrong and that Seitz confessed to killing only one child. “Seitz was on a mission of mercy. He wanted to put his mind at ease,” Fetter said. Seitz claims he killed a 14-year-old boy in 1958. Seitz, who owned a barber shop in a Milwaukee suburb, would have been 12 years old at the time.

Before police could interview Seitz about the confession he died last month in his home where he lived alone, apparently of natural causes.

A search of the man’s home in the past few weeks turned up numerous items related to the Wetterling case, including posters and photographs of Jacob, maps of St. Joseph, MN, letters about Wetterling and more.

Also recovered, according to Milwaukee police inventory records, were numerous photos, slides and videos of young children, missing children posters from throughout the region, maps of various parks and towns, pornographic images of young boys, tufts of hair, children’s shoes, drawings of nude young children and books on cannibalism.

Relatives of Seitz say he had a great concern for child abduction victims, having been abducted as a child himself. They also say Seitz battled depression and alcoholism.

Jacob Wetterling was abducted from St. Joseph, MN on October 22, 1989. He was just 11. Jacob, his brother and a friend were riding their bikes home from a nearby convenience store when a masked gunman appeared and told the boys to lie down on the ground.

The gunman eventually let the other two boys go, but took Jacob. The crime remains unsolved. There is no information in the search warrant that specifically names Jacob Wetterling as someone Seitz confessed to killing. But there are numerous items related to Wetterling, listed as recovered by police during their search of Seitz’s house.

Also in the search warrant, detectives note that there is newly poured concrete in Seitz’s basement and elevated dirt piles in his yard. Seitz also owned a barbershop in St. Francis, WI and police have obtained search warrants for that location as well.

KARE 11 reporter Allen Costantini spoke with Patty Wetterling by phone late Tuesday afternoon and she was not yet aware of the Milwaukee developments, though she remembered meeting Seitz.

“Vernon Seitz’s name came up a long time ago, when he came to us with psychic information,” Wetterling said. “I don’t know all of the investigation that law enforcement has done on him. I know he came to Minnesota. I’ve met him.”

Wetterling said she remembers that Seitz had done a painting of Jacob. “He was clearly obsessed with our case,” Wetterling said. “He came as somebody who cared deeply about Jacob and our case and tried to solve it, that’s the way he represented himself to us.”

Patty Wetterling is one of the nation’s foremost child safety advocates, a role she was propelled into after Jacob’s disappearance. The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center still operates, helping parents and communities keep children safe.

Late Tuesday night Milwaukee police released this statement:

“We have no information to substantiate any allegation that the deceased was involved in any missing children cases or homicides of children. We have exhausted all possible angles in this case. If we receive credible information that warrants investigation, we will pursue it. We want to make it absolutely clear that it is inaccurate to suggest there is ANY link to the Jacob Wetterling case or any other child homicide or crime involving children anywhere in the country. The search warrant yielded drawings by the deceased of children in sado-masochistic situations but absolutely no evidence that he was involved in any crimes. The search warrant was conducted at the beginning of December. We want very much to make sure the factual information is shared with the public.”

Click here for interview with Patty Wetterling

Click here for 1991 KARE 11 Wetterling documentary excerpt


Barber Was Creepy But Not a Killer, Police Say

Vern’s Barber Shop in St. Francis, Wis.
(Photo: John Klein / Journal Sentinal)

By Jesse Garza
Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee)
January 6, 2009

Police searching the home of a deceased St. Francis barber who claimed he was involved in murders of two boys 50 years ago found child pornography, newspaper clippings and fliers on missing children, bondage devices and paintings depicting child torture.

However, no physical evidence connecting the man to any murders was discovered during the search of the Bay View home, and Milwaukee police said they cannot prove Vernon Seitz was involved in any child homicides or missing children cases.

“We’ve exhausted all the leads in this case. This is not an active investigation,” Milwaukee police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said Tuesday.

“If we receive information from someone that gives us a concrete lead to follow, we certainly will, but at this point, there is no such information that has been shared with us.”

Still, news of the search results traveled quickly to the Twin Cities, after several of the items in Seitz’s Bay View home and St. Francis barbershop were linked to the name of a boy missing from there since 1989. …

Full story


Related story

Racine Police to Scour Files in Alleged 1950s Murder

By Linda Spice
Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee)
January 7, 2009


A Milwaukee County medical examiner’s report shows police went to Seitz’s home Dec. 15 after a friend had called to say he hadn’t been able to reach Seitz, who ran a barbershop in St. Francis. The friend had last spoken with him Dec. 10.

Officers found Seitz dead in his living room in a small home in the 900 block of E. Conway St.

Vernon Seitz’s Bay View home
(Photo: John Klein / Journal Sentinal)

The official cause of death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease, according to the report.

Police got a search warrant and seized the pornography and other items.

Some medications in the house had been prescribed by Victoria Fetter, Seitz’s psychiatrist.


Some items found in the search of Seitz’s home:

  • Newly poured cement in the basement
  • Piles of dirt outside
  • Bondage devices hanging from the rafters
  • Tufts of hair in the basement
  • A map of St. Joseph, Minn. (Jacob Wetterling’s hometown)
  • “Numerous letters, maps, news stories regarding Jacob Wetterling”
  • A photo of Jacob and a video of him before his abduction
  • Dozens of VHS videos and pornographic photos
  • Sketches, drawings, paintings of nude boys (sex/bondage themes)
  • A 1959 photo of an unknown boy holding a fish
  • Handcuffs
  • A pair of children’s shoes and another single shoe, size 2½
  • A “small round bone” with “no marrow”

(Source: Pioneer Press)



Police review dead barber’s psychiatric records
(Marie Rohde, Journal Sentinel, Jan. 12, 2009)

St. Francis barber was my neighbor!
(Bobby Tanzilo,, Jan. 7, 2009)



Disturbing Details on Alleged Pool Pervert

Photos of Daniel Acker released by police.

Heather Shannon
March 27, 2009

GREENFIELD, Wisc. — New details in the case against 61-year-old Daniel Acker of Waukesha have been released. Greenfield Police held a press conference Friday morning detailing the abuse they say Acker committed over the past four decades.

Police say they were alerted to the assaults when a former alleged victim called the West Allis-West Milwaukee Parks and Recreation Department to complain about Acker being allowed to teach children. That alleged victim, now in his 40s, told the department Acker was a pedophile and abused him he was a child. Police investigated that complaint, and say that victim told police about other victims.

Police have talked to several victims about the abuse, but say they are many more victims out there. Police believe Acker hid his obsession with young boys from everyone around him. They say Acker lived in a very clean condominium in Waukesha that didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary.

But police say the basement contained “many of the things you’d expect to see in a pedophile’s basement.” Police say they found toys, particularly toy cars, that they believe Acker used to lure his victims. But even more disturbing, police say they discovered that Acker has a fascination with missing and murdered young boys.

Pictures, articles, and even a several hundred page journal about an unsolved homicide case of a young Franklin boy, John Zara, were found in the basement.

Acker allegedly also had a fascination with the case of Jacob Wetterling out of Minnesota.

“Mr. Acker seems infatuated with the Zera case to a high level,” Deputy Inspector Bradley Wentlandt of the Greenfield Police Department said.

Wentlandt said Acker also had a miniature model of a police station in his basement. Wentlandt said if you lifted up the roof of the station, there were pictures of several murdered boys.

Another disturbing detail released at Friday’s news conference, Acker was a licensed foster parent. The Department of Children and Families says Acker was a foster parent beginning in 1999.

Two boys, brothers, ages 9 and 11, lived with Acker starting in 1999. The 9-year-old left in 2002. The 11-year-old left in 2006. The Department of Children and Families is cooperating with police and the district attorney to see if any assaults happened while the boys were living with him.

“All of his adult life he has had contact with children,” Wentlandt said. Some victims allege Acker assaulted them when they were boys, after taking them swimming in his condo pool. Others claim they met Acker when he worked at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex and the Adolescent Treatment Center.

They claim he assaulted them while they were undergoing treatment. Still others claim the assaults began when Acker was their swim coach at the West Allis-West Milwaukee Parks and Recreation Department.

The allegations shock Acker’s long time co-workers. “Any calls we’ve gotten about Mr. Acker are to sing his praises. He’s a very well respected person in our community,” Michele Strasser said.

Strasser is the Coordinator for Recreation for the West Allis-West Milwaukee Parks and Recreation Department. She has worked with Acker for years.

Acker was arrested at swim practice at Wright Middle School in West Allis on Monday. He is now on unpaid administrative leave from his job as Aquatics Director.

“Myself, our staff, this has taken a toll on our community,” Strasser said. The FBI is now involved in the case. Greenfield Police believe there are many, many more victims out there, and are asking any victims to come forward.

The number to call is 414-761-5301. Police say one additional adult victim did come forward late Thursday night after seeing Acker’s picture on the news.


Related reports

Obsessed with missing children’s cases (March 27, 2009)

Daniel Acker connection to murder case (March 30, 2009)

Acker questioned about murder case (April 2, 2009)



Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

The Search for Jacob [Alternative link — PDF]
(Steve Irsay, Court TV)

One of the last pictures of Jacob Wetterling, on a day trip two months before he was kidnapped on October 22, 1989, wearing the same blue mesh shirt he wore the night he vanished.

Find Joshua Guimond

Josh_lastfoto-1.jpg Joshua Guimond picture by Rifleman-Al
One of the last pictures of Josh Guimond, taken on the campus of St. John’s University (6 miles from the Wetterling abduction site) shortly before his disappearance on November 10, 2002.

All Possibilities Should Be Investigated in Guimond Case
(Aubrey Immelman, The Record, Nov. 11, 2004)

Above is a police sketch KMSP Fox 9 (Twin Cities) used in a February 2004 news feature about the college student working at the Tom Thumb convenience store in St. Joseph, Minn., who rented the video “Naked Gun” to Jacob Wetterling minutes before his abduction on October 22, 1989.

According to the Fox 9 report, the man depicted in the composite came to Tom Thumb two weeks to the day after the abduction and talked obsessively about Jacob, saying, “They’ll never find that boy.”

The clerk thought this individual, described as a white male about 50 years of age (currently in his late 60s) with receding gray hair, was behaving suspiciously. She reported him to the FBI and presumably the suspect sketch was produced based on her eyewitness account.


Related reports on this site

“In the Dark” Podcast — How Law Enforcement Mishandled the Jacob Wetterling Investigation (Sept. 13, 2016)

Close look at quality of investigation reveals trail of failures

New Book on Wetterling Abduction, Search, and Suspects (April 17, 2015)


On Facebook: Searching for Jacob Wetterling

Josh Guimond: New Developments (May 24, 2010)

Fighting to Protect Our Children (April 14, 2010)

Jacob Wetterling Freedom Walk (Dec. 21, 2009)

Guimond: “Justice for Josh” March (Nov. 9, 2009)

Missing Person Joshua Guimond (Nov. 7, 2009)

Jacob Wetterling 20 Years On (Oct. 22, 2009)

Jacob Wetterling Celebration (Oct. 16, 2009)

Jaycee Lee Dugard Found Alive (Aug. 28, 2009)

Wetterling Friend Shares Story (Apr. 28, 2009)

Ottis Toole Murdered Adam Walsh (Dec. 16, 2008)

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