The aunt of missing Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs made an emotional plea for anyone with information to contact the authorities and spoke out directly to Jayme, who has been missing since Oct. 15, and is feared to be in danger.
“Jayme, not a moment goes by that we’re not thinking of you and praying for you,” said Jennifer Smith, girl’s aunt, during a press conference at the Barron County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, Oct. 24. “Your family and friends miss you so much. Your sparkling eyes, your bright smile, your soft little giggles.”
Investigators sometimes employ remarks from missing people’s family members in the hopes of humanizing victims in the eyes of their captors, making them pause before inflicting harm.
Smith appealed to anyone with knowledge about the disappearance of her 13-year-old niece to contact the Barron County Sheriff’s Department. She vowed that the search for Jayne would continue until she is found.
Investigators have announced a $25,000 reward.
Justin Tolomeo, special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Milwaukee office, announced the award during a news conference in Barron on Wednesday afternoon.
“We are now offering a reward of $25,000 for information that directly relates to her location. So please, if you have information, we want to hear from you,” Tolomeo said.
Deputies responding to a 911 call from her mother’s cellphone on Oct. 15, found Jayme’s parents, James and Denise, dead inside the home from gunshot wounds. Jayme was nowhere to be found, and investigators believe she was kidnapped.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald asked Wednesday that anyone on U.S. 8 between 12:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 15, call the tipline, 855-744-3879. Others on the road might have noticed something important to solving the case, even if it doesn’t seem that way to them, he said.
He also reiterated that they want to hear from anyone who has noticed any changes in behavior or anything out of the ordinary.
Fitzgerald gave an update on the tips already received and said that any information provided by the public would be considered carefully.
“This remains an active investigation and we follow up on every tip. We’ve received over 1,550 tips from our community and across the nation. We’ve closed 1,250 of them,” Fitzgerald said.
He added that many of the tips have related to two vehicles of interest released by his agency—a red or orange Dodge Challenger and a black Ford Edge or Acura MDX.
Fitzgerald said authorities don’t know if Jayme was taken out of the area and so have made the search nationwide. He said there are 200 law enforcement officers working around the clock to solve this crime.
Investigators continue to review the evidence, including a 911 call just before 1 a.m. made from a cellphone registered to Denise Closs. The dispatcher on the call was unable to make contact with anyone, but heard a commotion on the other end of the line.
“We keep combing over evidence, looking for new things,” he said. “We had a new team, a new set of eyes, come in today and go over that house one more time to make sure nothing was missed. They did remove some items and those are being processed to see if there’s any new items of evidence.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Justin Tolomeo, declined to say whether investigators have any suspects.
A nationwide Amber Alert was sent out on the afternoon of Oct. 15, and the FBI has added Jayme to its list of missing people. She is described as 5 feet tall, 100 pounds, with blonde or strawberry blonde hair.
On Tuesday, 2,000-plus volunteers helped law enforcement officials scour Barron, Wisconsin, searching for any clues that could help locate the missing teenager.
Fitzgerald said last week that authorities believe that Jayme is in danger but expect that they will find her alive. On Tuesday he declined to comment on whether specific evidence has emerged proving she is still alive.
“We believe Jayme is out there,” he said. “Jayme is endangered and we need to bring a 13-year-old girl home.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.