LA PORTE CITY — Storm clouds gathered and rain fell Thursday as the world learned Jake Wilson, the autistic teen missing since April, is likely dead.
Human remains found Tuesday at Wolf Creek were consistent with the 16-year-old, La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher and Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said during a news conference at the La Porte City fire station.
“We have been able to confirm with the medical examiner’s office that we have found human remains in and around Wolf Creek at this time. ... We are confident that we are on the right path. We have had confirmation that what has been found is consistent with what we are looking for, and it’s also been consistent with one of the areas we were expecting to find items,” Brecher said.
Brecher said the remains haven’t been positively identified, and officials are working with the State Medical Examiner’s Office to confirm the identity through DNA. He said the results could be a couple of weeks away.
The cause of death remains unknown.
“It’s going to take a lot more work to figure this out,” Brecher said.
Emotions ran high after the news conference when Jake’s biological father, Michael Allan Wilson, was seen pushing the boy’s stepfather, yelling “I blame you” inside the fire station as reporters were retrieving their microphones.
Thompson, Brecher, family members and others separated the two, and Michael Wilson was arrested on two counts of misdemeanor assault.
News of the discovery of human remains shocked the community, which had come together to search for the missing teenager.
Jake’s stepfather, Jeremy Neiswonger, said the discovery brought the family back to the early days of the search following Jake’s disappearance on April 7.
“It’s kind of going back to, I wouldn’t say day one, but like day two and day three all over again. Just that drop in your stomach and the unknowns. That’s where we are still at, is an unknown after today,” Jeremy Neiswonger said.
Jake’s mother, Megan Neiswonger, said the family continues to suffer a heavy toll.
“It’s worse. There is no focus at work for both of us, more sleepless nights,” she said. “People don’t understand what we go through on a daily basis. Not having anything for so long.”
Jake was last seen about 9 p.m. that Saturday when he returned from buying ice cream and told his stepfather he wanted to head to the creek a few blocks away and would be right back.
But he didn’t return.
The ensuing search drew hundreds of volunteers from the community and experts from around the country, and investigators chased upward of 400 leads.
Recreational kayakers found the human remains in and near the creek Tuesday. Authorities remained quiet about the discovery until Thursday afternoon.
Authorities are keeping the location secret, but Thompson said the discovery was downstream from the creek access off Bishop Avenue where it was believed Jake had been headed that April night.
Brecher said it was in an area authorities had searched in the days and weeks following the disappearance. He said it wasn’t clear how searchers had missed the remains in the spring, but he said the water level has gone down.
“We have been in a position where the weather has allowed the creek to recede substantially over the last couple of months. We believe this is what allowed the kayakers who were out on the water to locate this,” Brecher said.
Weather during the initial search included snow, rain and minor flooding on the adjacent Cedar River. That effort included using an excavator to clear log jams in the creek.
Since the discovery, deputies have scoured about half a mile of the creek around the area where the remains were found to see if they can locate any more evidence.
“That’s trimming 6-foot-tall ragweed out of the way so we can see the ground, it’s a lot of laborious handwork that we have been going through the last few days,” Thompson said.
Some 25 to 30 deputies, volunteer firefighters and others have been working at the scene since Tuesday. They retreated when a storm rolled through Thursday afternoon for fear of lightning.
Brecher said authorities will continue to follow any new leads.
Thompson cautioned people to stay away from the scene and stay off the creek.
“We have a job to do. If this is Jake, it’s not enough to recover him for his family. We want to know why. We want to know how. We want to know what,” Thompson said. “We are forensically processing everything right now. We are very meticulously moving through the areas that we are working.”