Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP

Volunteers search swamps, fields for signs of Wisconsin girl

By Jeff Baenen, Associated Press | Posted - Oct 23rd, 2018 @ 4:40pm


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BARRON, Wis. (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers in rows walked through swamps, cornfields and woods on Tuesday in search of clues that might lead investigators to a 13-year-old Wisconsin girl whose parents were killed and who is believed to have been abducted.

People from in and around the Closs family's hometown of Barron and as far away as the Minneapolis area, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) to the southwest, heeded the call for up to 2,000 volunteers to assist in the expanded search for clues into Jayme Closs' disappearance. Hundreds showed up, though authorities didn't immediately provide an exact number.

After being instructed to proceed slowly and to yell "Stop!" if they see anything and to wait for the authorities to come check it out, volunteers fanned out in lines through marshes, wooded areas and fields. Video posted on Twitter by a KMSP-TV reporter showed searchers walking in a grid pattern, using the sticks to bat down tall grass and vegetation.

Reporters tracking various search groups tweeted that volunteers were told to look for anything that could be a clue, such as a cellphone, piece of clothing or gun.

Jayme Closs has been missing since sheriff's deputies responding to a 911 call early on the morning of Oct. 15 found the door to her family's home near Barron kicked in and her parents, James and Denise Closs, dead inside. Investigators believe Jayme was abducted and ruled her out as a suspect on the investigation's first day.

A ground search involving 100 volunteers last Thursday yielded nothing, but Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Monday that some of the roughly 1,200 tips investigators had received led to the decision to resume the ground search, though he didn't elaborate. Authorities mapped the area by helicopter in preparation for Tuesday's search.

"We've determined we'd like to search a bigger search area based on information our investigators have collected," Fitzgerald said. "These tips have led us to this."

Joe Scheu, a retiree from the nearby village of Haugen, said he was taking part in Tuesday's search because he has a 13-year-old granddaughter and he wanted to help out. He said the violence in the case is terrible and that he feels sorry for Jayme.

Jill Robinson, who lives about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south in Eleva, drove to Barron with a friend to join the search.

"I guess I'm not doing anything different than I would hope someone would do if it was one of my loved ones in this situation right now," said Robinson, 48. "I just think anytime it hits close to home like this, it just makes you think it could be you or one of our loved ones."

Investigators are searching for two cars — a red or orange Dodge Challenger and a black Ford Edge or black Acura MDX — that may have been near the Closs family's home on the night of the attack, Fitzgerald said. He didn't have information about the cars' license plates.

Relatives plan to hold a funeral for James and Denise Closs on Saturday at 1 p.m. at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Cameron, a village next to Barron. The funeral will be preceded by an 11 a.m. visitation.

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