BARRON, Wis. — Two days have passed since Jayme Closs’ parents were found dead and the 13-year-old girl vanished. But as investigators scramble to find her, few answers have emerged.
More than 400 tips have poured in since Jayme disappeared from her Wisconsin home on Monday. But the FBI is pleading for more help in finding the girl, who is the subject of an Amber Alert.
“She is now considered endangered, and could be anywhere in the country,” said the FBI.
Investigators are trying to find out not only where Jayme is, but also what led to her parents’ deaths in the small city of Barron. Closs’ parents were fatally shot and their deaths have been ruled homicides, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Wednesday. No gun was found at the scene, he said.
“I’ll be honest. I’m struggling with this because I don’t have some of those answers that I want to give you,” Fitzgerald told reporters.
Relatives wait in agony
Seara Closs said she wishes she were the one endangered, not her cousin Jayme. Seara wrote an open letter to Jayme on Facebook.
“I’m going thru our family pictures, worrying sick about you 😦 wishing we could trade places just to get you home and out of harms way,” Seara Closs posted.
Authorities identified Jayme’s parents as James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46.
In her post, Seara reminded her cousin that her family — including her slain parents — love her dearly.
“Grandpa Jim (James) Closs, your Momma Bear, Denise Closs and your very own night [in] shinning armor, your Daddyo Jim JR Closs … love all of you!” Seara Closs wrote.
Barron Area School District administrator Diane Tremblay said Jayme, a member of her school’s cross-country team, is a “sweet girl who is a loyal friend and loves to dance.”
During a recent school assignment, Jayme was asked what she would do with $1 million, Tremblay said. Jayme wrote that she would “feed the hungry and give the rest to the poor.”
The parents’ employers grieve their deaths
Both James and Denise Closs were long-time employees of the Jennie-O Turkey Store in Barron, Jennie-O’s parent company Hormel said.
“Our thoughts are with the Closs family and the entire Barron community,” said a statement from Jennie-O Turkey Store officials.
“This is a difficult time for our entire team and we are mourning this loss and are still processing this terrible tragedy. We are also hopeful for the safe return of their daughter, Jayme, and are keeping her and the Closs family in our thoughts.”
Fitzgerald said authorities believe Jayme was in the home at the time of the fatal shootings. The sheriff said authorities can’t say whether the Closses were targeted.
During a 911 call on Monday, the dispatcher heard a disturbance in the background. But no one spoke directly to the dispatcher, Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said deputies arrived less than four minutes after a 911 call. No vehicles were found in the immediate area, the sheriff said.
Authorities said they have determined whose cell phone the call came from, but declined to identify the owner.
On HLN’s “Crime & Justice” Wednesday night, Fitzgerald told host Ashleigh Banfield that deputies had recovered the cell phone.
Fitzgerald said additional agencies, including the FBI, are involved. “They are the experts in breaking down 911 tapes, looking at our phones, and taking care of all evidence in that manner,” he said.
Joan Smrekar, who lives next door to the Closs home, told Banfield she heard two shots just after 12:30 a.m. Monday a couple of seconds apart.
“It was just, ‘bang’ and ‘bang,'” Smrekar said.
Jayme Closs is 5 feet tall, weighs 100 pounds and has green eyes and blond or strawberry hair, the sheriff’s department said. Anyone with information can call the tip line at 1-855-744-3879.