Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Wetterling Case and the Monsters -- Part One, Biggie Rat

How do you approach the horror of it? The chances that a child, any child, will meet a monster are vanishingly small, but yet on that day, nearly 27 years ago, Jacob Wetterling met a monster. And now we know what happened.

What bothers me more about the Wetterling case aren't the details themselves, as horrific as they are. What bothers me more is how one man, Danny Heinrich, did so much to fundamentally alter the childhoods of millions of Americans. I wrote about this briefly yesterday, but it deserves amplification. I was born fifteen years before Jacob Wetterling. I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, a town that's about the same size as St. Cloud. The Wetterlings lived outside of St. Cloud, in a somewhat rural area. The landscape Jacob Wetterling knew wasn't much different than what we saw growing up in Wisconsin. When I was young, I didn't have to worry about my safety, as long as I was careful and didn't take stupid chances.

We did worry about monsters, though. It would have been about 1970 or so when the kid rumor mill went nuts in Appleton about an evil guy named Biggie Rat.

Biggie Rat, wearing his cape, with an assortment of the local citizenry

He hung out mostly on the east side of town and apparently spent a lot of time in the cemeteries. He wore a cape and carried a sword. He supposedly was a big fan of satanic rituals and the stories we would hear and share on the St. Therese playgrounds made him into a figure of great fear. I was in the second grade at the time and we heard the wildest things about him. He'd killed people. He would take you to the cemetery and do horrible things to you. He had supernatural powers. We also heard he had a nemesis named Biggie Cat, who was coming to get Biggie Rat.

I was genuinely terrified of this guy. Looking back, the whole thing was ridiculous. Biggie Rat was just a guy who was looking for attention. In the end, he was harmless. But there was a real monster in Appleton at that time, although we didn't know it yet. And we'll come back to that.


R.A. Crankbait said...

The stories show the history and pattern of assaults and attempted assaults leading up to Jacob's abduction - and no one appears to be looking at whether or not there were any AFTER Jacob. We know where the guy lived, are there any more missing kids? While this guy avoided the death penalty by confessing and revealing the location of Jacob's body, are there other crimes out there waiting to be tied to this monster?

Mr. D said...

Those are damned good questions. There hasn't been any reporting I've seen about Heinrich's, ahem, career following his crimes against Jacob Wetterling. One would assume he didn't just stop. It's possible there are other investigations involved, but it may be we won't be told about them. They'll have plenty of access to Heinrich going forward, so it's possible we'll learn more.

Bike Bubba said...

Look at his behavior after, and before. I just took a look at all the signs people missed regarding John Wayne Gacy, and let's just say I'm going to honor Jacob Wetterling along with Gacy's victims by being vigilant about this stuff.