LA PORTE CITY — The large map is taped to the side of a fire truck 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 from La Porte City, which is about 15 miles southeast of Waterloo. La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher said people have walked ditches, searched open areas, looked inside culverts, along 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 Hills 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 volunteer numbers were more than 2,000.
And then there is Wolf Creek, where search and rescue experts braved winter-like 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 Saturday evening, 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 will now begin looking at other angles to try and determine what happened to Jake.
Jake Wilson 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 home. He never returned and his family reported him missing that night.
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. They are asking anyone who was there that day to upload their pictures and videos to a website. They want to see who is in the background of pictures and videos.
“We need that witness that doesn’t think it is anything. We need that one photo or video,” Thompson said Saturday. “There’s tons of things that a photo can capture.”
The website is www.fbi.gov/laportecityiowa. For those unsure of how to upload to the site, Thompson urged them to come to the La Porte City Police Department for help. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 319-291-2515 or local authorities.
Thompson was asked Saturday whether authorities are looking at any connection between Wilson’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.” The only similarities are that they both happened in small communities in Black Hawk County and the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office is again involved in the investigation.