On Oct. 22, 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped while biking home from a convenience store. A masked gunman approached him, his brother, and a friend, and ordered the three boys off their bikes. After demanding to know their ages, he ordered Jacob’s brother and the friend to run into some nearby woods and threatened to shoot them if they looked back. The boys ran. By the time they turned around to see what had happened to Jacob, he was gone. Nearly 25 years later, Jacob remains missing, and the identity of his kidnapper is unknown.

“I was a stay-at-home mom,” Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, recalled over the phone last month. “I knew a lot about parenting, but I knew nothing about sexual abuse of children.” Determined to educate herself, Wetterling became “a sponge, trying to learn anything about this problem.” Soon, one thing stood out: Minnesota, where Jacob had been kidnapped, did not have a database that might help the police identify a list of potential suspects. Other states, such as California, had been keeping sex offender registries for decades. Wetterling also learned that Congress had never tried to craft a national approach to sex offender registration. She was determined to change that. [Read more]

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