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Without a Trace

Twenty years ago, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling vanished. His fate remains unknown, his captor’s identity a mystery. But much has changed in the way crimes against children are investigated. Here, the story as told by those who lived it.



(page 3 of 3)

 

In 1994, U.S. Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Act, requiring states to create registries of people convicted of sex offenses and crimes against children. Amendments two years later directed the FBI to create a national offender database, among other changes.
 

Jim Ramstad, former Minnesota congressman: I’ll never forget walking the halls [of the U.S. Capitol], going office to office with Patty, to try to get the Wetterling bill passed back in 1993 and 1994. Patty Wetterling personified parental love. It wasn’t difficult to get my colleagues’ attention once they met Patty. The Jacob Wetterling Act started the ball rolling.
 

In 2006, Congress dramatically broadened sex-offender policy, requiring juveniles and, in some cases, nonviolent offenders to register, and allowing retroactive application of the law. Wetterling and Sabin are among many early proponents of stronger laws who say the latest reform is a step in the wrong direction. One worry is that so many low-level and juvenile offenders must now register that, for investigators, using the database to find a criminal match is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
 

Nancy Sabin: Ironically, we are now speaking out against the misuse of our own law. It was originally intended as one tool in a tool kit; it wasn’t supposed to be the whole kit. It was intended for violent, repeat-pattern adult offenders. So we’ve passed laws to throw every kid and adult who has ever done a sex offense on the registry. It will lull us into thinking now we can breathe easier.

Eric Janus, president and dean of the William Mitchell College of Law and author of Failure to Protect: America’s Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State: I think the sex-offender law that has the biggest prospect of being useful is the registry. But if we really want to be effective, we’re going to have to change our focus and become much more comprehensive. All of these laws really are based around this archetype of the sex offender as a stranger who’s mentally disordered and can’t control themselves. But we know that is wildly inaccurate. Statistically, the greatest risk of child sexual abuse comes from acquaintances and family members.

We don’t have very many stranger-child abductions, and very, very few sexually oriented child murders. It’s a mistake to design a whole system around those very rare though horrific crimes.

Al Garber: This case educated law enforcement about child abductions, and that’s been great. But it was hard work then, and if it happened again tomorrow, it would be hard work tomorrow. It’s really all about the people on the ground—nothing’s changed in that respect. Computers are not going to find the kidnapper, and satellites are not going to find the kidnapper. They help the investigator on the street, but it’s the investigator—not the computer—that’s going to find the kid or the kidnapper.
 

The Open Case

The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office continues to receive tips regarding the kidnapping. Most of them, such as calls from people who think the man on the barstool next to them resembles Jacob, don’t pan out. New information that surfaced six years ago did lead investigators to revisit their past assumptions. In 2003, a local man came forward and said he had been listening to a police scanner the night of the kidnapping and had driven across the scene. Upon realizing the tire tracks at the scene probably belonged to him, police took a fresh look at local suspects.
 

John Sanner, Stearns County Sheriff: If hindsight teaches us anything, it’s to not lose focus of that local piece when you’re doing everything else. Very early on in this investigation, we became a national clearing house for information regarding missing and exploited children. We looked at any case that involved a missing child anywhere in the United States and Canada, hoping for a connection. We lost the local piece pretty quickly.

I look at this case as a huge failure both for the entire law-enforcement community and for this agency. We weren’t able to provide answers to the family or the community, and we still have a detective assigned to the case. We truly are the only hope the Wetterlings and the community has to get answers. We have made a commitment to ourselves, every single one of us here, to not let them down.

We have developed a few local suspects. Some, of course, we like better than others.

Al Garber: We tried as hard as I’ve ever seen a group of cops and agents try and we couldn’t find out who did it and that’s pretty unusual. Usually, people do talk about what they’ve done. Sometimes it takes them a long, long time, but eventually somebody talks and that’s the way that crimes are solved. Nobody who could lead us to Jacob or the kidnapper talked and that leads me to believe that the criminal is either extremely unusual or dead.
 

The Wetterlings still live in St. Joseph. Jerry still works as a chiropractor and leads a yearly Rocky Mountain trek to raise money for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Patty Wetterling is the director of sexual-violence prevention at the Minnesota Department of Health. Jacob’s siblings, Amy, Trevor, and Carmen, have reached out to others who have lost brothers or sisters in the same way. There are three grandchildren, including a new baby named Jake.
 

Patty Wetterling: My kids are doing well, and I’ve got grandkids, and it would be easier to just curl up and say, “I’m not going to do it anymore.” But somebody took Jacob, and he’s still out there. Is he doing it again? Has another family been hurt by this person? I just can’t live with myself if I don’t try. The boy we knew is gone, but I will always fight for the world he knew.

A reporter recently asked me, “What do you think really happened?” I’m like, “If I knew…. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

I don’t know if I’m in denial or if he’s still out there. I’ve known a lot of families with missing children over the last 20 years, and many people, when their child died, they knew it. They felt it. Mothers had this sense of knowing. Later the police would come, and they would say the exact time, and the moms would say, “Yes, I knew it.” I’ve never had that happen.

Beth Hawkins wrote about businessman Tom Petters in the September issue of Minnesota Monthly.

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More information

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Cost: varies

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Erik's Retreat
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View map »


Sponsor: Erik's Ranch & Retreats
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More information

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Cost: Free

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View map »


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Cost: Free

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View map »

More information

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Cost: Free

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More information

July 25 & 26th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. July 29 & 30th, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. Scratch a design into the vessel that will produce your own cast iron sculpture. Each summer Iron Artists from...

Cost: Fees for sand mold: $30/small, $45/medium, $75/large

Where:
Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St. Croix Trail
Shafer, MN  55074
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Sponsor: Franconia Sculpture Park
Telephone: 651-257-6668
Website »

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The tool set for communicating with your customers has changed for the better. Social media plays a large role in customer service, sales, and marketing – and it is growing faster than any...

Cost: Free

Where:
Checkerboard Strategic Web Development, Inc.
350 W Burnsville Parkway
Suite 350
Burnsville, MN  55337
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Minnesota Fringe Festival is proud to present our 174 acts, performed by both local and international touring artists. Our artists perform at 11 different theaters and 9 site-specific locations....

Cost: $14/single ticket + one-time purchase of a $4 Fringe button

Where:
, MN

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Summer Faire Announces Its 2015 Season! The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes’ popular summer concert series is back- better than ever! Don’t miss FREE live music from talented local...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Shoppes Central Courtyard
I-94/I-694 at Hemlock Lane
Maple Grove, MN
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Sponsor: The Shoppes
Telephone: 763-488-9965
Contact Name:
Website »

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Bollywood Dance Scene, creators of 2014's best selling MN Fringe show, return with a bigger, bolder Bollywood dance drama of original storytelling and choreography. Packed with exciting...

Cost: $14 with a $4 Fringe button

Where:
Rarig Proscenium Theater
330 21st Ave South, Second Floor
Minneapolis, MN  55455
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Sponsor: Bollywood Dance Scene
Telephone: 612-782-9836
Contact Name: Carillon RoseMeadows
Website »

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All Originals Jazz Series presents dā-kə-bro̵̅o̅-dā: Kevin Daley, guitar; Dave Brattain, saxophones; "Pooch" Heinie, bass; Dave Stanoch, drums. All Originals is a weekly jazz...

Cost: $10

Where:
Studio Z
275 E. 4th Street, Suite 200
St. Paul, MN  55101
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Sponsor: Studio Z
Telephone: 651-755-1600
Website »

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Opening Reception with the Artist: Thursday, August 16, 6 - 8 pm St. Croix Valley-based fiber artist Mary Giles works with metal and linen to create organic sculptural forms evocative of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Textile Center
3000 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN  55414
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Sponsor: Textile Center
Telephone: 612-436-0464
Contact Name: Jenny Jones
Website »

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The St. Catherine Choral Society invites area singers to audition for membership in preparation for their 2015 – 2016 season.  Auditions will be held at St. Catherine University,...

Cost: Free

Where:
St. Catherine University
2004 Randolph Ave.
Saint Paul, MN  55105
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Summer Group Show 2015 Featuring the artists of the Kolman & Pryor Gallery: Betsy Ruth Byers: Painting Kate Casanova: Mixed Media and Sculpture Jim Dryden: Painting Jil Evans: Painting...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kolman & Pryor Gallery
Studio 395, Northrup King Building
1500 Jackson St. NE
Minneapolis, MN  55413
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Sponsor: Kolman & Pryor Gallery
Telephone: 612-385-4239
Contact Name: Anita Sue Kolman
Website »

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THE SUMMER SLAUGHTER TOUR 2015 Skyway Theatre: ARCH ENEMY BORN OF OSIRIS VEIL OF MAYA THE ACACIA STRAIN OBSCURA AFTER THE BURIAL CATTLE DECAPITATION BEYOND CREATION  IMMORALIS...

Cost: $25

Where:
Skyway Theatre
, MN

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Come join the battle July 31-August 2! Somerset Amphitheater will host the Border Battle Weekend on its newly improved festival grounds. The event is an extension of the popular Border...

Cost: $20-$35

Where:
Somerset Amphitheater
715 Spring Street
Somerset, WI  54025
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Website »

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Summer at the Civic: Free Friday Concerts Patio and Grill open at 4pm, Happy Hour 4 – 6pm, Music at 5:30 – 9pm Free admission.  Rain or shine. Fresh food & cold drinks....

Cost: Free

Where:
Rochester Civic Theatre
20 Civic Center Dr. SE
Rochester, MN  55904
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Sponsor: 507 Magazine
Website »

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Minnesota Fringe Festival is proud to present our 174 acts, performed by both local and international touring artists. Our artists perform at 11 different theaters and 9 site-specific locations....

Cost: $14/single ticket + one-time purchase of a $4 Fringe button

Where:
, MN

More information

Summer Faire Announces Its 2015 Season! The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes’ popular summer concert series is back- better than ever! Don’t miss FREE live music from talented local...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Shoppes Central Courtyard
I-94/I-694 at Hemlock Lane
Maple Grove, MN
View map »


Sponsor: The Shoppes
Telephone: 763-488-9965
Contact Name:
Website »

More information

Join love-struck Aladdin on a treacherous journey to find a lamp like no other.  Jewels come to life in a deadly display of balanced precision, a whirlwind of demonic Jinns practice their...

Cost: $15.00 - $40.00 on sale Monday, June 29

Where:
Circus Juventas Big Top
1270 Montreal Ave.
St. Paul, MN  55116
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Sponsor: Circus Juventas
Telephone: 651-699-8229
Website »

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Princeton Speedway is a 1/4 mile clay banked oval located in Princeton, Minnesota inside the Mille Lacs County Fairgrounds. The dirt flies here on Friday nights throughout the summer months. On...

Cost: prices are adults $12, Senior and military are $10, and 7-17 year olds are $5

Where:
Princeton Speedway
1400 3rd St. N
Princeton, MN
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Website »

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Hydrive Shows and Skyway Theatre present: BOOMBOX CARTEL ARYAY MicDaddy Rare Kandy THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN Friday, July 31st The Loft @ Skyway Theatre 9pm 18+ $15...

Cost: $15

Where:
The Loft @ Skyway Theatre
711 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Telephone: 612-333-6100
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Death can be scary. So can clowns. But what if they weren't? Clown siblings Victoria, Frank, and Mango mourn the loss of their mother by daring to find joy. It’s OK to laugh at this...

Cost: $14

Where:
Illusion Theater
528 Hennepin Ave, 8th Floor
Minneapolis, MN  55403
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Stop in to Day Block Brewing on Friday July 31st for an evening of live music from local artists Fairfax, AK and Bre Lewis Band.  Music starts at 10pm and there will be a $5 cover charge.

Cost: $5

Where:
Day Block Brewing
1105 Washington Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55415
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Enjoy this unique riding experience on the Mesabi Trail, NE Minnesota's premier paved bicycle trail. The tour is designed for serious riders and families alike, choose from four different...

Cost: $45 individuals / $90 families (kids ride FREE)

Where:
Mesabi Trail - Coleraine to Eveleth
P.O. Box 139
Virginia , MN  55792
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Sponsor: Great River Energy, Mesabi Trail, Ampers
Telephone: 877-637-2241
Contact Name: Ardy Wilberg
Website »

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The Dirty Girl Mud Run is a 3.1 mile(ish) obstacle course run for women and women ONLY! If you’re an uber cross fitter looking to make your weekend more challenging, Dirty Girl Mud...

Cost: $55-$65

Where:
Pinehaven Pumpkin Farms
28186 Kettle River Blvd. North
Wyoming, MN  55092
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Sponsor: Human Movement Management
Contact Name: Carson Morford
Website »

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Dash for the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Join the World’s Largest Running Series as a St. Jude Warrior! Warrior Dash is the ultimate event for the thrill-seeking...

Cost: Multiple Entry Point Levels

Where:
Johnson Creek
Johnson Creek, WI  53038


Telephone: 952-893-0442
Contact Name: Matthew O'Shea
Website »

More information

In a Reiki II session, the student is given the first three Reiki symbols. Students will learn about: • the Power symbol • the Mental/Emotional symbol • the Distance symbol...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Rising Sun Reiki Studio
4180 West Broadway
Suite B3
Robbinsdale, MN  55422
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Sponsor: Rising Sun Reiki Studio
Telephone: 612-940-5851
Contact Name: Cyndi Stavrou
Website »

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Come experience a day full of diverse brass music from mariachi to swing! This year's festival features twelve phenomenal bands from the region. Audiences of all ages will get to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bridge Square
Intersection of E 4th St. and Division St.
Northfield, MN  55057
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Sponsor: Vintage Band Festival
Telephone: 507-645-7554
Website »

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Learn how to make smarter investment decisions and take control of your financial future   Invest a few life-changing hours in our Power Trading Workshop, where you’ll learn:...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online Trading Academy
7900 International Drive Suite 170
Bloomington, MN  55425
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Sponsor: Online Trading Academy
Telephone: 952-814-4410
Website »

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Tires Plus will welcome customers and guests for an exciting community event including:   •Fun activities with Boys & Girls Club kids from Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin...

Cost: Free

Where:
Tires Plus
580 W 79Th St.
Chanhassen, MN  55317-9530
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More information

Do you like a morning run or a leisurely walk? Looking for a great reason to be active? Participate in the 3rd Annual BBBS 5K Run/Walk! Enjoy the views and natural beauty that Fort Snelling...

Cost: $30 Individual $45 Match Rate

Where:
Fort Snelling State Park - Beach Area
101 Snelling Lake Road
St. Paul, MN  55111
View map »


Sponsor: SNAP Fitness

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Artist from around the world converge at Franconia to create cast metal sculpture and we invite the public to participate in this unique art-making process! Witness artist working a furnace that...

Cost: Free

Where:
Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St. Croix Trail
Shafer, MN  55074
View map »


Sponsor: Franconia Sculpture Park
Telephone: 651-257-6668
Website »

More information

Opening Reception with the Artist: Thursday, August 16, 6 - 8 pm St. Croix Valley-based fiber artist Mary Giles works with metal and linen to create organic sculptural forms evocative of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Textile Center
3000 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN  55414
View map »


Sponsor: Textile Center
Telephone: 612-436-0464
Contact Name: Jenny Jones
Website »

More information

HazelFest, presented by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, is a day-long chemical-free community festival that features bands, recovery speakers, exhibitors, food trucks, and family...

Cost: $15-$25

Where:
Hazelden Campus
15251 Pleasant Valley Rd.
Center City, MN  55012
View map »


Sponsor: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
Telephone: 763-300-1218
Contact Name: Jeannette Cleland
Website »

More information

Nershfest. It’s music. It’s friends. It’s a Minnesota summer day. It’s also the name of the Minneapolis-based music festival featuring local live music, craft beer and great...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harriet Brewing Company
3036 Minnehaha Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55406
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Sponsor: Nershfest
Telephone: 336-402-2439
Contact Name: Griffin
Website »

More information

Captain Terry will hold a public cruise this Saturday August 1, 2015. 12:30pm - 2:30 pm

Cost: $14

Where:
Lady of the Lake Docks
8 Water Street
Excelsior, MN  55331
View map »


Sponsor: Lady of the Lake
Telephone: 952-929-1209
Contact Name: Terry Jungers
Website »

More information

Come join the battle July 31-August 2! Somerset Amphitheater will host the Border Battle Weekend on its newly improved festival grounds. The event is an extension of the popular Border...

Cost: $20-$35

Where:
Somerset Amphitheater
715 Spring Street
Somerset, WI  54025
View map »


Website »

More information

The fourth Kräftskiva! festival will bring The Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar out onto the streets of Minneapolis for the evening – shutting down 2nd Ave North alongside The...

Cost: $20

Where:
The Bachelor Farmer
50 2nd Ave N
Minneapolis, MN  55401
View map »


Sponsor: The Bachelor Farmer
Telephone: 612-206-3920
Website »

More information

Minnesota Fringe Festival is proud to present our 174 acts, performed by both local and international touring artists. Our artists perform at 11 different theaters and 9 site-specific locations....

Cost: $14/single ticket + one-time purchase of a $4 Fringe button

Where:
, MN

More information

Summer Faire Announces Its 2015 Season! The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes’ popular summer concert series is back- better than ever! Don’t miss FREE live music from talented local...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Shoppes Central Courtyard
I-94/I-694 at Hemlock Lane
Maple Grove, MN
View map »


Sponsor: The Shoppes
Telephone: 763-488-9965
Contact Name:
Website »

More information

Join love-struck Aladdin on a treacherous journey to find a lamp like no other.  Jewels come to life in a deadly display of balanced precision, a whirlwind of demonic Jinns practice their...

Cost: $15.00 - $40.00 on sale Monday, June 29

Where:
Circus Juventas Big Top
1270 Montreal Ave.
St. Paul, MN  55116
View map »


Sponsor: Circus Juventas
Telephone: 651-699-8229
Website »

More information

The Oratorio Society of Minnesota is proud to announce the concert GREAT OPERA CHORUSES, which will be presented by the Society’s Summer Chorus, a festival chorus of 150 singers, and a...

Cost: $10-15

Where:
Ted Mann Concert Hall
2128 S 4th St
Minneapolis, MN  55455
View map »


Sponsor: Oratorio Society
Telephone: 612-432-7398
Contact Name: Matthew Mehaffey
Website »

More information

Stop in to Day Block Brewing on Friday July 31st for an evening of live music from local artists Fairfax, AK and Bre Lewis Band.  Music starts at 10pm and there will be a $5 cover charge.

Cost: $5

Where:
Day Block Brewing
1105 Washington Ave S
Minneapolis, MN  55415
View map »


Website »

More information

Death can be scary. So can clowns. But what if they weren't? Clown siblings Victoria, Frank, and Mango mourn the loss of their mother by daring to find joy. It’s OK to laugh at this...

Cost: $14

Where:
Illusion Theater
528 Hennepin Ave, 8th Floor
Minneapolis, MN  55403
View map »

More information

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