Jenkins’ body found in river

Police give no indication regarding cause of death

Authorities pulled the body of missing University student Chris Jenkins from the Mississippi River upstream from the Minneapolis campus late Thursday, the family’s private investigator said.

“It’s been a rough ride,” said Chuck Loesch, whom the family hired Nov. 2. “It’s not over yet.”

Loesch said Sgt. Pete Jackson from the Minneapolis homicide unit called Steve Jenkins, Chris Jenkins’ father, who called Loesch between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

A spokesman for the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said two pedestrians saw the body under the Third Avenue Bridge and called police shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday. Police recovered the body at approximately 6:15 p.m.

Jenkins, a Carlson School of Management student and lacrosse team captain, disappeared from the Lone Tree Bar & Grill at Fifth and Hennepin avenues in downtown Minneapolis on Halloween night.

His body was found on the Mississippi River’s south bank, across from St. Anthony Main, less than seventh-tenths of a mile by street from the bar.

Loesch said he thought Jenkins was still wearing the costume he wore the night he disappeared, but he would not comment on the condition of the body.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner will attempt to identify the body Friday afternoon after the family provides dental records, said Mike Opitz, an investigator with the medical examiner’s office.

Minneapolis police would not comment Thursday. Sources said the department will make a public statement late Friday.

The Jenkins family is coming Friday to Minneapolis from Burlington, Wis., near Milwaukee, after canceling plans to leave for their first vacation since Jenkins disappeared.

Family friend Phil Buchannon has been managing calls to the Find Chris Jenkins command center but said he has not received new tips in three weeks.

“It’s a tough time for the family,” he said, and many have resigned themselves to believing Jenkins was “probably gone.”

“A lot of people put in a lot of time and a lot of effort,” he said. “(Jenkins) touched my heart.”

Jenkins’ girlfriend, University junior Ashly Rice, could not be reached for comment, but was “crushed” by the news, her mother said.

Hundreds of family members and friends, as well as four psychics, searched downtown Minneapolis, the Mississippi’s banks and the University campus in the days after Jenkins disappeared.

The family announced a $50,000 reward Nov. 10 for information leading to Jenkins’ return.

Jan Jenkins, Chris Jenkins’ mother, repeatedly thanked the University community throughout November and December for its help but had called the police investigation “a serious slap in the face” after she said police told her Jenkins probably jumped into the Mississippi after battling depression.

Huron Boulevard Parking Complex tollbooths still display “Someone Knows” signs, and the family’s Web site, www.findchris, frequently crashed Thursday due to the volume of people seeking the latest updates.

Wetterling sees parallels

Patty Wetterling, whose son Jacob was abducted near St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989 and was never found, has been in close contact with Jenkins’ family during recent months.

“I know exactly what the family is going through,” she said. “I find that amazing. It’s very parallel to what we’ve gone through.”

Both Jenkins and Jacob Wetterling had Feb. 17 birthdays, and both disappeared in October.

Patty Wetterling said it is important to know whose body was recovered. In February 1990, the Wetterling family spent “a hellish day” waiting to see if a body found floating in a river was their son, only to learn it was not.

“I spent a whole day going through what (the Jenkinses) are going through, and it wasn’t him,” Wetterling said.

If Jenkins is not alive, his family needs to know, Wetterling said. At least, she said, “you know nobody’s hurting them – that they’re not in a bad place.”

Wetterling said until she knows what happened to her son, she will keep waiting for the phone to ring.

“You rewrite your own script for how you believe it happened,” she said.

For the Jenkins family, she said, having proof the body is their son will be important. TV crime-lab dramas give people a false sense of what technology can determine, Wetterling said.

If the body is Jenkins, Wetterling said, his family will confront the next stage of the process.

“It opens up the next step,” she said. “How did he get there? Was it foul play? … It ends one phase of what the family’s going through.”

The family will never have “closure,” Wetterling said.

“You can never be the person you used to be Ö even if your child came home alive,” she said. “The family may have some answers, but they’ll still have questions.”

Buchannon said he is relieved the family can begin recovering, but he said concerns remain.

“What was the cause?” he said. “Was it a crime or not?”

– Nathan Hall, Paul Sand, Rocky Thompson and Anne Wendt contributed to this report. The authors welcome comments at [email protected]