Father of murdered Fargo girl: 'He's in prison, and my daughter is still missing'
FARGO--John North is glad the parents of Jacob Wetterling finally know what happened to their son after he was snatched from a rural road in St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989. He's gratified they can finally lay him to rest.
FARGO-John North is glad the parents of Jacob Wetterling finally know what happened to their son after he was snatched from a rural road in St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989. He's gratified they can finally lay him to rest.
But North, formerly of Fargo, is still waiting for the same for his youngest daughter. In a phone interview last week from his home in Albuquerque, N.M., North said he holds out hope that day will come.
"A decent Christian burial would mean a lot to me," North said.
The tragedy the North family has endured is at this point a mirror image of the Wetterlings'. Jacob's parents agreed to a deal struck by prosecutors allowing their son's confessed killer, Danny Heinrich, 53, of Annandale, Minn., to avoid criminal charges in exchange for helping find the 11-year-old's body. He did plead guilty in a separate child pornography case.
Jeanna North's killer was convicted of murdering her, but her body has never been found.
She was also 11 years old when she disappeared, on the night of June 28, 1993, while Rollerblading to her north Fargo home from a friend's house less than a block away.
Kyle Bell was charged and convicted of Jeanna's murder in 1999. Bell had told them he dumped her body off a bridge over the Sheyenne River, but in 14 river searches, they never found a trace.
It's believed to be the first such conviction in North Dakota lacking the victim's body, according to prosecutors and defense lawyers.
Would North rather be in the Wetterling family's position, knowing the answers?
"You have to deal with what dice was dealt," North said. "What was done is done. He's in prison, and my daughter is still missing."
Bell is serving a life sentence for Jeanna's murder at the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz.
North said he still prays Bell will show remorse and reveal exactly where he put Jeanna's body, but isn't holding his breath for that.
"It's unfortunate that the killers of our children don't have the balls to tell us where their remains are and go to their grave keeping that with them," North said.
North is glad there are strong sex offender registration and notification laws now, but they didn't come in time for Jeanna or Jacob.
Bell, who had done time for sexual molestation in South Dakota, was not required to register as a sex offender at the time.
"If I had known, I would have moved my family out of that neighborhood in one day," North said.
Now 64 and retired, North lives in the same city as his oldest daughter, Jessica, while his second daughter Jennifer lives in Casselton, N.D. He has five grandchildren. North remains single; his ex-wife Sue died in 2009 at age 58.
Their youngest, Jeanna, would be 35 years old in December.
North thinks about what might have been and tries not to live in the past.
"But there's not a day in my life that my daughter's memory is not in my head," he said.