BARRON, Wis. - An army of searchers heeded the call Tuesday for volunteers and helped law enforcement hunt for evidence that Wisconsin authorities hope leads to locating 13-year-old Jayme Closs and solving the shooting deaths of her parents in the family’s home more than a week ago.
This organized foot-soldier hunt for clues - capped at 2,000 volunteers - was the second since James and Denise Closs were killed on Oct. 15 in their home on the western edge of Barron, and was much larger than the first on Thursday, which the Barron County Sheriff’s Department said came up empty.
“The outpouring of hope and support from the community and law enforcement has been overwhelming,” read a Sheriff’s Department statement issued as the day’s search was winding down. Searchers collected various items Tuesday for inspection, but none turned out to be related to the case, the statement continued.
Away from the pursuit of evidence on the ground, the Sheriff’s Department added, more than roughly 1,100 of the more than 1,400 tips received by authorities have been investigated and determined to have no connection to Jayme’s disappearance or the killing of her parents. In the meantime, the sheriff’s statement continued, “We are aggressively working the others.”
Earlier in the day, under low cloud cover and with daybreak yet to take full effect, a stream of vehicles - from compact cars to a school bus - stretched for miles, inching its way toward the gathering point in Barron well before the appointed starting time for a search lasting into late afternoon.
Officials directed people to park in harvested soybean fields and made all volunteers register. Some people carried trekking poles and backpacks, some showed up wearing hunting gear and others donned snowmobile jackets, wool hats and mittens. Ronald Peterson, who came with his wife, Ann, from Spooner, and is originally from Blaine, Minn., said they don’t know the family but felt compelled to come. “How can you not relate to a missing 13-year-old?” he asked. “I can’t imagine anybody who can’t feel a lot of compassion.”
Authorities say they have no credible indications of Jayme’s whereabouts, and Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald continues to consider her “missing and endangered,” and believes she can be brought home alive.
There also are no firm suspects identified in her disappearance or the killing of her parents in the middle of the night.
At a news briefing Monday afternoon, law enforcement alerted the public to watch for vehicles that were seen in the area about the time of the crimes.
Fitzgerald said authorities are looking for a 2008-2014 red or orange Dodge Challenger and a black SUV: either a 2006-2010 Ford Edge or a 2004-2010 Acura MDX. Cameras on homes and businesses in the area picked up those cars, he said.
“You never know what will bring Jayme home, so please, call in your tips,” he said, asking people to alert law enforcement if they recognize the descriptions of any of the cars.
Anyone with information is asked to call a 24-hour tip line, 1-855-744-3879, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later Monday, a nighttime vigil on the Barron High School football field drew community members willing to brave the fall chill in a showing of grief and mutual support.
The choir from Riverview Middle School - where Jayme is a student - sang “there must be a way to change the world.”
Local musician Chris Kroeze, a contestant on television’s “The Voice,” took the podium last, strumming his guitar and singing a Beatles favorite: “And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.”
Funeral services for both 56-year-old James and 46-year-old Denise Closs are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in nearby Cameron, the Rausch and Steel Funeral Home in Barron announced Monday night.