MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO is going inside the day-to-day hunt to find a northwest Wisconsin girl.
It’s been 25 days since Jayme Closs disappeared, and her parents were killed.
Now, we’re digging deeper into other crimes in that area, the dozens of criminals investigators checked out first and the role social media is playing in a case that has terrorized a small town. The Barron County Sheriff’s Department is still getting dozens of tips a day in Jayme Closs’s case.
People have called in sightings of the teenager from across the country. Most tips are able to be checked out within hours and still no sign of her.
“Why, why, why is the question,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
The day starts at 8:30 every morning with that question looming among a team of investigators huddled inside a briefing room inside the Barron County Law Enforcement Center.
“At 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. we have a phone conference with FBI and DCI in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, wherever agents happen to be they stop what they’re doing and get in on this phone call,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.
Sheriff Fitzgerald explains the process behind the thousands of interviews they’ve conducted so far.
“You look at family, you look at relatives, you look at coworkers, sex offenders,” he said.
WCCO found 23 sex offenders living within three miles of Jayme Closs. A number considered high in a town of just more than 3,400 people.
But, the sheriff says so far everyone they’ve talked to has fully cooperated.
“What they’re doing now is going over that information, making sure two plus two equals four. Seems simple but if two plus two doesn’t equal four on an interview then we go back and interview again,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.
Before the murder and kidnapping at the Closs home, Sheriff Fitzgerald’s department was focused on another crime that has crippled this area.
“Meth was our No. 1 issue in Barron County. That led to property crimes that led to domestic abuse that led to child abuse,” he said.
The county is ranked third in the state for the highest meth use, even against much more populated areas. Eighty percent of Barron’s jail population is doing time for a meth-related crime. But, investigators don’t see any connection at this time.
They are focused on forensic testing. For the last week, Wisconsin’s crime lab has tested 40 pieces of potential evidence a day.
“As of now we just don’t have any good physical evidence either which is another frustrating part of this case,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.
That includes already 80 pieces of separate videos or pictures from homes and businesses along Highway 8 from that night. Investigators have also kept a close eye on social media. As Facebook groups pop up, Fitzgerald says investigators check every post.
As a small community waits to welcome the shy girl they’ve come to know, home.
“She was one of the good ones if you want to call it that,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.
Four state troopers have been brought into help assist the county search for the vehicles possibly involved in this case. Sheriff Fitzgerald also made some comparisons to Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance.
As the years passed, there was concern that case grew too big and too soon. Fitzgerald says that’s been difficult here with the more than 2,000 tips to sort through. Now, they’re trying to slow things down a bit to take a closer look at anything they may have missed.