BARRON, WIS. – They filed onto the blustery high school football field carrying the weight of worry and grief and fear. But a week after 13-year-old Jayme Closs went missing, her parents shot to death in their home outside of town, the message at a community gathering Monday night was one of support and hope.
Hope that law enforcement’s herculean efforts to follow more than 1,000 tips in the past week will soon pay off. Hope that whoever shot Jayme’s parents would be caught. Hope that Jayme will be brought home safely.
“It’s just important that we all stick together in this hard time,” said Morgan Frisinger, who cuddled her 5-month-old daughter under blankets as soothing piano music played. “It hits home. It’s such a small town … nothing happens like this in a small town.”
Hours before the vigil, authorities said they have no new leads but described two types of vehicles that may have been in the area a week ago. On Tuesday morning, 2,000 volunteers are expected to take part in a massive search, looking for clues about Jayme’s disappearance.
Frisinger and a few hundred others shivered in the cold under bright field lights because they wanted the Closses’ extended family to know they are supported. The choir from Riverview Middle School — where Jayme Closs is a student — sang “there must be a way to change the world.”
First Lutheran Church Pastor Ron Mathews spoke of one community of many faiths gathering for a common purpose.
“Hope moves us against the facts of circumstance and beyond despair, fear and anxiety,” Mathews told the crowd. “Hope is the sure presence of peace in the midst of grief and deep sadness.”
Leaders of several faiths were on hand to lead small group prayers and comfort a community both weary and wary.
Barron resident Bud Moe said he and his wife came out partly out of a “feeling of helplessness” and a desire to show their support for the family and community. They have grandchildren, he said, and “we can’t imagine what that would be like.”
Gene Rick, who taught middle school in the district and has grandchildren in school there now, said the tragedy gave the community a sense of vulnerability. While some might be frustrated at the scant details being released by authorities, he said he’s OK with them protecting the investigation. “I just hope it goes quickly,” he said.
Meanwhile, he thinks of the cases of missing people that end with them being found safe.
“Nothing has come forward that says that there isn’t hope,” he said. “It’s not always a hopeless situation. … I’m hoping for the best, praying for the best.”
At a news briefing Monday afternoon, authorities said they still have no motive in Jayme’s disappearance but alerted the public to watch for cars that were seen in the area when she disappeared.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said they’re looking for a 2008-2014 red or orange Dodge Challenger and a black SUV: either a 2006-2010 Ford Edge or a 2004-2010 Acura MDX. Cameras on homes and businesses in the area picked up those cars, he said.
“You never know what will bring Jayme home, so please, call in your tips,” he said, asking people to call the hotline if they recognize the descriptions of any of the cars.
The sheriff also asked the public to alert authorities if they have noticed any changes in people who own those types of cars. Perhaps they have stopped driving them or are taking different routes, he said.
Asked if he could provide any assurances to the public, for instance if the case was random or targeted, he said he could not. “I wish I knew a motive. I wish I knew why this took place,” he said.
Earlier, Fitzgerald put the call out for 2,000 volunteers to participate in a six-hour search Tuesday for evidence in connection with the teen’s disappearance and the deaths of her parents, James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, on Oct. 15 at their home just to the west of Barron.
The sheriff said he could not comment on exactly what the searchers will be looking for: “We will not jeopardize Jayme’s safety over the public having knowledge about this case.”
Investigators said they have no confirmed sightings of Jayme, who is considered “endangered.” The Sheriff’s Office said she was in the home at the time her parents were killed. No arrests have been made in the couple’s killing or Jayme’s disappearance.
Anyone with information is asked to call a 24-hour tip line, 1-855-744-3879, or to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers are being directed to report to the staging area at 1883 Hwy. 25 in Barron, also known as the Hungry Hollow Grounds, no later than 9 a.m. Tuesday. No more than 2,000 volunteers will be allowed to participate.
Searchers must be at least 18 years old, have photo identification and be able to walk on uneven terrain. Proper footwear and cold-weather clothing should be worn.
A search on Thursday for Jayme drew dozens of participants and covered several miles in each direction from the Closs home, which is set back in the woods on Hwy. 8. The search lasted several hours but did not turn up any evidence, Fitzgerald said.
At the vigil Monday night, local musician Chris Kroeze, a contestant on “The Voice,” took the podium last, strumming his guitar and singing a Beatles favorite:
“And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.”
Staff writers Paul Walsh and Hannah Covington contributed to this report.