Releasing files on Jacob Wetterling the right thing to do

This weekend the family of Jacob Wetterling announced they will not appeal a court order to release the investigative files on one of the most publicized and horrible crimes in state history.

Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped on Oct. 22, 1989 near his home in St. Joseph, and not until the summer of 2016 did investigators know what happened to him. That’s when Danny Heinrich reached a plea agreement on federal child pornography charges that required him to confess he had kidnapped, sexually assaulted and then murdered Jacob all those years ago. He is serving 20 years in prison for the child porn charges, but will never be prosecuted for Jacob’s murder.

Since then, the release of the Wetterling investigative files have been contested by his parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, who claimed many of the documents were too personal. Out of 56,733 pages of reports, they objected to releasing 168 pages. The federal government is demanding the return of investigative reports it provided, but the rest are public documents under state law.

The Wetterlings are conceding the question of the release of the rest of the documents.

We admire the Wetterlings for their grace under the most dreadful situation a parent can face and we don’t wish them any more pain than they have already suffered, but it is important that the public have a chance to access these documents, to judge how investigators conducted their search in the aftermath of the kidnapping and see whether the case could have been resolved sooner.