Wisconsin police are still searching for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was reported missing when her parents were found dead early Monday.
James and Denise Closs were discovered slain in their home just outside of Barron, about 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis, after cops responded to a 911 call around 1 am. An AMBER alert was issued for Jayme that afternoon.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters the 911 call came from a cellphone inside the Closs residence but declined to say whose number it was. Investigators don’t believe Jayme is a suspect in her parents’ deaths, Fitzgerald said.
On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Jayme may have been spotted at a Miami gas station in a black Ford Explorer with Wisconsin tags, in the company of two “well dressed, bearded men.” But at a press conference later that afternoon, Fitzgerald said the Florida sighting didn’t appear to be a “credible tip.”
“We have followed up on that tip. That information did not come from this podium. It’s not credible information,” Fitzgerald said, after he warned citizens and the news media not to publish unverified information.
Fitzgerald said a tip line brought in more than 200 state and regional tips as of Tuesday in a probe that includes help from the FBI and Wisconsin Department of Justice. Investigators combed the scene of what’s been described as a “violent” crime twice, he said.
Earlier in the day, Fitzgerald asked residents to come forward with any information they might have on Jayme’s disappearance, and to share information on people with “behavioral changes” and “who may have been involved in this crime.”
“She has been missing for a day and a half and our community is concerned for her safety. Often, someone in the community will have knowledge about a crime and may not realize it,” Fitzgerald told reporters.
People who have committed acts of violence may display changes in their behavior, may miss work or scheduled appointments or family commitments. Or they may suddenly leave town or change their appearance, Fitzgerald added.
“Every second counts in this case,” he said. “When a child like Jayme is missing, we ask you to observe this behavior and report it to us.”
Fitzgerald declined to describe the manner of death of the Closses or whether a firearm, which he said was used in the murders, was found at the scene.
He said that whoever dialed 911 for help didn’t speak to the dispatcher. “That’s what’s unusual on that 911 call. There was no one communicating with our dispatcher,” the sheriff added.
Fitzgerald previously said yelling and the word “help” was heard on the 911 call, which lasted less than a minute, WEAU reported.
When asked if he believes Jayme is nearby, Fitzgerald said, “If I knew that answer, I think we’d be a lot further along. I’m struggling with this. I don’t have some of those answers I wanna give you, I wanna give the family.”
Fitzgerald said Jayme isn’t considered a runaway and is “missing and endangered.”
Jayme is described as a sweet, shy teenager who loves dancing and sports. She ran cross country at Riverview Middle School in Barron.
She is 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, with green eyes and blonde or strawberry blonde hair.
On Facebook, the missing teen posted photos in sparkling dance attire. “I love to dance at Christine's Dance Jazz, ice-skating, valleyball [sic], swim, Art, cross country, Track, Dance,” Jayme wrote on her page.
Jayme was last seen with her mother at a family gathering on Sunday afternoon. The girl’s father was working at the time.
Her grandfather, Robert Naiberg, told the Associated Press that nothing seemed wrong at the birthday party in honor of one of Jayme’s cousins.
“She was quiet as always. She was a quiet girl,” Naiberg said.
He said Denise was a “thoughtful person” who brought “a little gift for everybody” at the gathering.
James, 56, and his 46-year-old wife, Denise, worked at a Jennie-O turkey meat plant in Barron.
Friends, relatives and coworkers mourned the couple on Facebook.
“Not a day goes by that Jim and I would have some kind of conversation about our day or give each other advice about how deal our day to day ordeals at work,” one coworker wrote on social media. “Denise Closs was very nice person who [took] the time to talk you as we finish up the work day by our lockers.”
“Jayme was their world I hope to God she will be found safe.”
Luella May, a former coworker at Jennie-O, told The Daily Beast that she was devastated by the loss of the couple.
“Denise was a very sweet girl and she loved everyone. I went to her house a few times and I met her daughter Jayme and she was just a doll, and now she’s growing up into a beautiful young girl,” May said on Tuesday.
“James was a very funny man and a blast to have around. If you ever needed anything they would do what they could to help,” May added.