More than 100 local and state FBI agents are involved in the search for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who has been missing since Monday, October 15, when her parents were found shot to death inside their Barron, Wisconsin, home. According to authorities, at approximately 1 a.m. on Monday, operators received a 911 call from the home of 46-year-old Denise and 56-year-old James Closs, and noted that while no one spoke, a “disturbance” could be heard in the background.
“We believe Jayme was in the home at the time of the homicides and we believe she’s still in danger,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said on Wednesday.
It took just four minutes for police to respond to the 911 call, but by the time they arrived, Jayme was gone, Fitzgerald said, and there were no suspicious vehicles in the area. No gun was found at the scene, but relatives told CBS News that the front door was shot in.
Joan Smrekar, the Closs family’s next-door neighbor, told Bandfield that she heard two gunshots, seconds apart, just after 12:30 a.m. Monday.
“It was just, ‘bang’ and ‘bang,'” Smrekar said.
In another interview with WTMJ, a local radio station, Smrekar said that she and her husband initially dismissed the gunshots as likely nothing more than neighbor trying to scare an animal off their property. But the volume of the gunshots struck both of them as strange, and Smrekar said her husband noted, “That’s a big gun.”
The local community was alerted to Jayme’s disappearance that morning, and an Amber Alert was issued at 3:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Fitzgerald told HLN’s Ashleigh Bandfield that police were able to locate the cell phone used to call 911 and identified the owner, but declined to offer further details.
Once news of the murders began to circulate on social media, so did speculation that the missing teenager might have had a hand in her parents’ murders; Fitzgerald has insisted that police ruled out Jayme as a suspect very quickly, but believe she was at home during the shooting based on details from the 911 call and evidence from the home.
Authorities have received over 800 tips related to the girl’s disappearance, but no meaningful leads or suspects. Early Tuesday morning, police in Miami reported that Closs may have been spotted at a gas station near the city’s Little Havana neighborhood, inside a Ford Explorer with Wisconsin tags. The FBI followed up and deemed the tip “not credible.” On Thursday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Department called on 100 volunteers to report to an intersection off of Highway 8 to assist with “a routine search for articles of evidentiary value,” but a Facebook update posted four hours later reported “nothing” had been found. According to USA Today, police have also used used drones and infrared equipment in their search.
Smreker told WTMJ that in the approximately seven years of being neighbors with the Closs family, they kept to themselves and didn’t spend much time outside in their yard. She would see them coming and going, including when Jayme would catch the bus to school, but otherwise knew little about the family.
CNN reports that the Closs parents were both longtime employees at the Jennie-O Turkey hatchery and processing plant in Barron. “This is a difficult time for our entire team and we are mourning this loss and are still processing this terrible tragedy,” Jennie-O’s parent company, Hormel, said in a statement. “We are also hopeful for the safe return of their daughter, Jayme, and are keeping her and the Closs family in our thoughts.”
Jayme was described by Barron Area School District administrator Diane Tremblay as a “sweet girl who is a loyal friend and loves to dance.” On Wednesday morning, her cousin, Searra Closs, posted a Facebook message which referred to Denise and James Closs as Jayme’s “Momma Bear” and “Daddyo.”
“Don’t forget you have some seriously bad ass guardian angels with you now and always baby girl!” Seara Closs posted. “Take care of her guys, until we get her home and safe, then we can take over from our end!!!! “
Jayme Closs is 5 feet tall, weighs 100 pounds and has green eyes and blond or strawberry blond hair, the sheriff’s department said. Anyone with information can call the tip line at 1-855-744-3879.