LA PORTE CITY — The large map is taped to the side of a firetruck inside the fire station here. Despite its size, one needs to get close to understand the scale of the search for Jake Wilson.
In black outline, the map shows the wide areas around La Porte City that have been searched since April 8 for the missing 16-year-old. La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher said people have walked ditches, searched fields, looked inside culverts, scoured roadways and waterways from Vinton to Evansdale — as well as a remote park in Bremer County — and still they have not found the teen. They’ve been through Hickory Hill Park and little parks and drive-off areas in surrounding areas.
“I’m very proud of the people who came forward to help us out. We cleared so much area so quickly,” Brecher said, adding that the volunteers numbered more than 2,000.
And then there is Wolf Creek, where search and rescue experts braved winterlike conditions as they walked it, dove into it and sent sonar equipment into it.
“We did everything in our power to clear this area. We are extremely confident that this is where Jake is not,” Brecher said late Saturday, his arm sweeping across the map.
Sheriff Tony Thompson now takes over the lead in the investigation into the missing boy with autism. An investigations team is looking at other angles to try to determine what happened to Jake.
He went missing the night of April 7 after he told his family he was going to walk to Wolf Creek a few blocks from his La Porte City home. He never returned, and his family reported him missing that night.
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Thompson and Brecher believe an answer to his disappearance could come from the public. There was a large number of people in town April 7 with a bike ride and a class reunion going on. Authorities are asking anyone who was there that day to upload any pictures and videos they took to a website. Officials want to see who is in the background.
“We need that witness that doesn’t think it is anything. We need that one photo or video,” Thompson said. “There’s tons of things that a photo can capture.”
The website is fbi.gov/laportecityiowa.
Thompson was asked whether authorities are looking at any connection between Jake’s disappearance and the missing cousins case from Evansdale in 2012. That was when two little girls were kidnapped and killed after riding their bikes to a recreational area. Their remains were found months later in Seven Bridges Park in rural Bremer County. No one has been apprehended in that case.
“We are looking at about 100 correlations,” he said. “Nothing is off the table.”
But he said these are “substantially different circumstances.”