Public Safety

Scores search for autistic teen from La Porte City who has been missing since Saturday

But case now in hands of growing team of investigators

Volunteers check in Wednesday at the La Porte Volunteer Fire Department as the search continues for 16-year-old Jake Wilson. (BRANDON POLLOCK/Waterloo Courier)
Volunteers check in Wednesday at the La Porte Volunteer Fire Department as the search continues for 16-year-old Jake Wilson. (BRANDON POLLOCK/Waterloo Courier)
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LA PORTE CITY — Scores of volunteers returned Wednesday for a fourth day as the search for an autistic teenager missing since Saturday night continued.

But by the end of the day, La Porte City police Chief Chris Brecher said volunteers from the public would not be needed again Thursday, while Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said the team of professional investigators has grown and is conducting a “robust” probe.

“We are still treating this as a missing person,” the sheriff said Wednesday evening.

For days, volunteers have been scouring fields, streams and wooded areas for Jake Wilson, 16. Searchers set out in convoys of school buses and on personal ATVs to look for him.

“We are doing more pinpoint searches today,” Brecher said in the morning as the searches got underway. “We have buses that we are sending 30 to 40 people out to specific areas. We are re-hitting a few certain areas that are wooded, timber areas. We do have some assets in the water. We have air assets that may be coming in today.”

Jake, who is autistic with a mild intellectual disability, was last seen Saturday night. Relatives said he asked to go to nearby Wolf Creek and never returned.

Brecher said about 250 people signed up for Wednesday’s search, which was down slightly.

But the number of investigators working the case has grown. Thompson said the team now includes agents from the state Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI as well as local police. He said child abduction response team investigators would join the search, but cautioned “don’t read anything into that” other than they have specialized expertise. The team was formed in 2015 after the abductions and murders of cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey in Evansdale.

Thompson said the number of investigators assisting with the case has grown from three to more than 28 so far.

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“I’ve got just about every discipline from every law enforcement agency — state, local and federal engaged,” Thompson said. “A lot of those have been specifically chosen because of their discipline, because of their particular expertise.

“I’ve got state and local folks out there working with FBI folks making contact with people on the sex offender registry. That would be something you’d expect,” Thompson said. “We are doing everything from re-canvasing, re-touching, making sure we got good documentation of everybody we talked to.”

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