With all of the bad press that has befallen them recently, it’s befitting that good news has emerged from law enforcement quarters. Within the course of one week investigators resolved three historical and high profile missing child cases. Collectively, Jacob Wetterling, Laura Smither, and Brittanee Drexel were missing for more than 53-years. Unfortunately, none of the cases ended the way their families had hoped, but at least now they are secure in the knowledge that no-one is harming their children.
When Polly was still missing after 2-months I felt like I was losing my mind. Fear and anger dominated my waking hours, and nightmarish visions overwhelmed my fitful sleep. Hope became tenuous, like a taut rubber band waiting to snap. So, I can only imagine the emotional crescendo’s overwhelming Brittanee, Laura, and Jacob’s families. Of course, they are relieved to finally know the truth, and to have the answers that have eluded them these many years. However, they are also profoundly saddened by the knowledge that their children are dead. Coming to terms with their new reality will be difficult, but ultimately it will be worthwhile.
I believe that it’s always better to know the truth, rather than to be left grappling in the darkness of doubt. Learning that your child is dead is a harsh reality, but I believe that it is better than the false hope and unanswered questions that accompanies years or decades of not knowing. On Tuesday, September 6, at a press conference following the killer’s confession Jacob’s mother Patty said, “For us, Jacob was alive until we found him. We need to heal”.
Brittanee, Laura, and Jacob were all victims of unimaginable horror. The FBI developed information that 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel was kidnapped, gang-raped, tortured, murdered and that her remains were fed to the alligators that populate the South Carolina coast. On Thursday, September 1, a Galveston, TX grand jury handed down murder indictments against alleged serial killer William Reece after he led them to the remains of 12-year-old Laura Smither of Friendswood, Texas who he kidnapped, raped and murdered in 1997. Of course, Jacob’s killer, who remained in the community, has always been a person of interest in his case. It was only after an intrepid investigation finally put the pieces together that the authorities were able to elicit a confession in a plea deal that allows him to escape legal responsibility for the evil crimes he committed against 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling.
On a given day in the United States as many as 33,000 children are missing according to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Think of emotions that must be surging through the families of the missing. Of course, they now know that just because a case becomes historical doesn’t mean that it has gone cold. Evolved investigative techniques and technology are shining a new light on missing child cases that are decades old and all of those families exist in the same gray area that imprisoned the families of Brittanee, Laura, and Jacob for all of these years. They all want answers, whether the kids are dead or alive. They need to know that their children are finally free from harm and exploitation.