Minnesota investigators today confirmed that the search of a local farm near St. Joseph, Minn., earlier this week was related to the 21-year-old case of Jacob Wetterling, who disappeared after an apparent abduction at the farm in 1989.
"A number of items were seized pursuant to the search warrants and will require additional processing and or analysis which could take several weeks to possibly months to complete," the Stearns County Sheriff Department statement said.
Crews arrived at the farm on Wednesday and Thursday to search and dig on the premises.
The sheriff's office also confirmed that it had been joined in the search by the FBI, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and a team of search and rescue dogs and their handlers.
The statement also included a copy of the court orders that previously prevented officials from disclosing any details about the new activity in the search. Not even Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling, knew what investigators were doing at the farm a half mile down the road from her house.
"They can't tell me," Patty Wetterling told ABCNews.com Thursday. "I do believe it's connected."
Jacob, then 11, was taken by a masked man from the driveway of the farm while his brother and a friend watched. Even after 21 years, Patty Wetterling is cautiously optimistic about the search.
"I'm hopeful that they'll find something," Wetterling told ABCNews.com. "We're keeping our fingers crossed, saying a little prayer here and there."
"It's hard," she said. "It's very confusing, what to feel, what to think, what to do."
She praised law enforcement officials for their continued attention to a search that she has never given up on. "What it shows to me is the absolute commitment of law enforcement to never quit," Wetterling said.
Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, echoed Wetterling's sentiment.
"This sounds a loud clear message that this case is still alive and the investigation continues," Allen told ABCNews.com Thursday.
Allen is also hopeful that the new efforts will finally lead to some conclusion.
"At a minimum, these people deserve some answers. They need to know what happened," he said.
Jacob Wetterling Was Abducted While Bicycling With a Brother and a Friend
A man who answered a cell phone registered to the farm property refused to confirm his identity and refused to answer any questions about the renewed activity on the farm earlier this week.
"I'm not answering any stupid questions," the man told ABCNews.com. "We've been questioned and harassed for 21 years. We're done."
Local ABC News affiliate KSTP reported that up to 17 vehicles were on the property Wednesday and many returned today. A dump truck filled with dirt left the property today and came back empty soon after.
Jacob was abducted on Oct. 22, 1989, as he, his brother Trevor and a friend were returning home on their bicycles from picking up a video. It was the first time Jacob had been out alone at night on his bike.
On the return home, according to the other boys, a masked gunman stopped all three -- and then drove off with Jacob.
All that remained of him on the gravel road was a spot where Jacob's footprints seemed to show resistance. And then nothing.
Over the past two decades, Jacob's mother, Patty Wetterling, has sustained herself with hope.
"We hope for Jacob, for all of our grandkids, for every child who's home safe today and every child who's missing," she said in an interview with "Nightline" last October on the 20th anniversary of the boy's disappearance.
Over the years, his mother has found her voice, and her mission: to find Jacob and help protect other children.
"A lot of people ask, 'How do you do it?' How could I not?" she said. "Every parent knows, you would do anything for your children, and our anything [has] got to be a little more than we ever would have dreamed, but you continue. We'll do anything that we can to find him."