LA PORTE CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Officials looking for a La Porte City teen faced a harsh reality, Saturday, scaling back some aspects of their search effort.
Jake Wilson's family said the autistic 16-year-old was last seen heading to a nearby creek, April 7. But, after seven days of searching, authorities hadn't found him.
"We're at the point of our investigation now where we are going to be scaling back, significantly," said La Port City Police Chief Chris Brecher in an afternoon news briefing.
Brecher said, going forward, authorities will only do periodic checks as tips come in.
The initial search effort to find the teen was massive. In a week's time, hundreds of volunteers marched miles in cold and mud, reaching an about ten-mile radius from town.
They checked high and low while specialized teams looked under the water. The search there largely focused on six miles of Wolf Creek. Still-- nothing.
"We are extremely confident, in the area that we have checked, we know this is where Jake's not," said Brecher. "We did everything in our power to clear this area."
Attention now largely turns to the investigation aspect of Wilson's disappearance. Was he abducted? Was a crime committed? A multi-agency group will continue to work to find answers.
"We'll take it from here," said Sheriff Tony Thompson. "That's where this investigation, that's where this operation goes from here."
Thompson again pushed for people to go online and upload video and images from the night Wilson was last seen. He hoped a lackluster start to the effort would turn around if people realized a camera may have inadvertently captured the key to cracking the case.
"We still need help," said Thompson. "We need that one piece of information. We need that one witness that doesn't think it's anything. We need that one piece of video or that one photo. That's what we need."
Authorities are asking for more information on a person who could be connected to the disappearance of a La Porte City teen.
Jake Wilson, 16, is on the autism spectrum and first went missing the evening of April 7, in La Porte City. His family said he was walking to nearby Wolf Creek.
During a Saturday morning briefing, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said authorities were looking for any information on a person who was spotted walking in the area of Commercial Street and Bishop Road, around 8:30 p.m., the night Wilson was last seen.
Thompson said authorities were making the request for info following a tip that had come in overnight. Specifically, law enforcement was looking for a description of the person and what direction they were headed.
The tip line, 319-342-2232.
Thompson went on to say he was “rather frustrated” by the low response to the FBI webpage created to upload photos and videos from April 7. Investigators announced the collection page Friday morning and hoped a camera used last Saturday might have caught something that would help in the search.
“This is very seriously a demand, now,” said Thompson. “If you were here and have that kind of media, we need that stuff uploaded. We know that there were events going on in town. We know we had a reunion, we know we had a bike ride.”
Authorities were also on the water again, Saturday, continuing the work of the two days prior. Dive teams had been searching a winding, near six-mile, portion of Wolf Creek from the Cedar River back to La Porte City.
Crews have marked logjams and then broken the river debris apart. They’re also utilizing a new, more versatile sonar system to search for Wilson in the water.
La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher said as of 11:45 a.m. authorities were planning to keep working, despite the less than ideal weather conditions— chilly temps, high winds, and rain.
“It hasn’t pulled us out of the water yet,” said Brecher. “I don’t think too many people are happy about it that are out and about. But, they’re trucking through it and doing well.“
Brecher said officials were keeping a close eye on the weather, watching for lighting and other severe conditions.
He said the rain hadn’t slowed the team down. They had completed three miles of Wolf Creek, Friday and hoped to finish the remaining three, Saturday.
In a statement, Wilson’s family said they appreciated the “outpouring of love and support” they had experienced over the past week during an “impossibly difficult time.”
“We love Jake,” the statement read. “We want him to be home with us.”
FULL WILSON FAMILY STATEMENT:
We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have experienced over the past week during this impossibly difficult time for our family. We love Jake and we want him to be home with us.
We would like to share a little bit about Jake. Jake may act like a typical teenager, but he has struggled from the difficulties of mild intellectual disorder, which he has had since birth. As he grew up he displayed odd behaviors that were similar to that of Autism. Even with these challenges, Jake perseveres through the support of family, friends, and the good people of this community. He is able to play sports and even made first place in long jump and second place in softball with the Special Olympics. Jake loves music and performing in choir. The one thing Jake loves to do and dominates at is playing his X-Box just like any other teenager. I am sure most parents can relate to this.
One of his favorite hobbies is exploring nature. Jake is an avid nature lover. He loves to fish and collect all kinds of treasures like antlers, empty shells, and all kinds of other things a teenage boy would collect when being outdoors. His favorite chore is feeding the chickens. He loves visiting his Uncle Chad and Aunt Mel’s acreage and loves getting a turkey or chicken egg while collecting feathers from the coups.
Jake loves going to the park in town and swing. We built a swing for him in our backyard because he loves it so much. Jake loves ice cream. Jake loves being Jake and we love him more than we can possibly describe.
We want Jake to come home. We are at a loss for words for how appreciative we are for everyone’s help in making this happen. During this difficult time, we ask that the media, volunteers, and community members to help us get any information that can help us find him.
Jake, we love you and we want you to come home.
Again, thank you everyone for all of your help.