by Lisa Regan
When I was eleven years old, Jacob Wetterling was abducted from a small Minnesota town. If you don’t know the story, Jacob, his brother and a friend were riding their bikes home from a local store where they had gone to rent a movie. A masked man with a gun stopped them. He chose Jacob and told the other boys to run. Jacob’s brother and friend ran home to alert their babysitter to what had happened. Jacob was never seen again.
I remember the news coverage like it was yesterday. It was one of those that-could-have-happened-to-me moments in my very young life. I was the same age as Jacob and I used to ride my bicycle all over my neighborhood without supervision. Decades passed and I never forgot Jacob or his mother Patty, who galvanized her community and still runs the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center which provides all kinds of resources for families and communities in terms of protecting children. I used that website when I needed reference materials to help me start talking to my own child about sensitive issues like strangers and good secret/bad secret.
All my life I wondered what happened to Jacob. His body was never recovered. Is he still alive? Every few years a story would appear on the national news, reminding us that he might still be out there somewhere. I would study the age progression photo and wonder if someone, somewhere, had run into him and not even known it!
I wondered what happens to these kids who are abducted but never heard from again? Finding Claire Fletcher is my fictional exploration of that. I started writing it years before abducted children like Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck and Jaycee Lee Dugard were recovered. Of course in my novel, the abducted child is a girl and she is a teenager. I did many things with the plot to make the book more entertaining but essentially it came out of my what-if questions surrounding abducted children and that obsession began with Jacob Wetterling.
Genre – Psychological Thriller / Crime Fiction
Rating – R