One week after the FOX 9 Investigators uncovered some shocking admissions from Matthew Feeney -- a prominent Twin Cities talent scout and convicted sex offender, investigators say they also wondered whether he could have been connected to Jacob Wetterling's disappearance.
Feeney is currently facing molestation charges in three cases, but his criminal history stretches back decades. Now, Stearns County investigators tell FOX 9 he seemed to have some fascination with the Wetterling case -- and the timing seemed suspect.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many people knew Feeney as "Matti." At the time, he was a counselor at a Catholic youth camp in McGreggor, Minn. Kids from all over the state -- even the country -- visited there.
Feeney eventually admitted to molesting several children as they slept in the cabin. Two boys remembered the abuse and confirmed it with police. Feeney pleaded guilty, but served no time. He also admitted to abusing several boys while serving as the director of youth ministries at the Catholic church in St. Joseph.
One man who the FOX 9 Investigators will identify only as Tim went on to become a camp counselor himself, and he said he remembers Feeney doing something odd after Wetterling's disappearance.
"I was with Matt Feeney and another child. I don't know what kind of car, but it was like a cop car," Tim recalled, explaining that there was a CB radio, night stick and large flashlight inside.
Tim told the FOX 9 Investigators that Feeney wanted to show them where Wetterling was abducted, a location many in the area were familiar with.
"Drove around for a while and he stopped the car and pointed up to the right side of the car," Tim remembered. "Basically, to a ditch -- five, 10 feet. He basically said that is where he was abducted."
It wasn't until later that Tim began thinking about that night differently.
"Could there be a connection between him and Jacob?" Tim asked.
Feeney's attorney says his client is absolutely not connected to the case, but it's a question the Stearns County Sheriff had to consider for several reasons.
When an investigator questioned Feeney in the sex abuse cases in 1991, he gave them his journal. In it, he wrote about his attraction to boys, called himself a child molester and a monster. He also wrote about Jacob.
In a list of things he'd like to do, Feeney included daily prayer, tithing 10 percent, exercise and visit the Wetterling Foundation once a week.
On another day, Feeney wrote about a list of petitions and intentions. The first read, "that Jacob's abductor slips up so as to find/know the whereabouts of Jacob."
Feeney's police file from the 90s also includes a handwritten letter Feeney intended to send to someone who appears to be a victim, saying, "If it helps, I am sorry."
The person also apparently wondered if Feeney was linked to Wetterling's disappearance because Feeney wrote:
"About Jacob Wetterling, no. I didn't do a thing, but sometimes I wonder. I have an air-tight alibi. I was camping and [victim's name] was with me and witnesses saw us with his dad 20 minutes after the fact. What I'm scared of is: What if I had been asleep that night? Could I do something that terrible and complex in my sleep?"
While that may have simply been a reference to the excuse he was using at the time that he had unknowingly molested boys in his sleep, it was enough to kindle the interest of investigators on the Wetterling case -- but they ruled Feeney out pretty quickly.
Firstly, the modus operandi wasn't right, they say. Feeney courted his victims and did not use violence. Furthermore, two witnesses put him in the area but with them at the time of the abduction.
Twenty years later, Feeney would be charged with molesting two brothers who were clients of Feeney's talent agency.
"My boys were so devastated," the alleged victims' mother told FOX 9.
References to the long-missing boy in Feeney's materials are chilling for the boys' parents, but Feeney's attorney sent the following statement to the FOX 9 Investigators:
"To put it simply, there is absolutely no connection between Matthew and the tragic disappearance of Jacob Wetterling. To suggest otherwise is preposterous, denies Matthew his right to a fair trial, and worst of all creates unfounded optimism among the Wetterling friends and family."
The Stearns County sheriff told FOX 9 News his investigators took another look at Feeney after he was charged in 2012 in both Minnesota and Massachusetts, where he is accused of molesting the son of a relative, just to make sure they hadn't missed anything; however, they believe they can rule him out as a suspect.