Weird twist in abducted girl case
POLICE hunting a young girl who mysteriously vanished after her parents were found murdered at their rural home in the American midwest state of Wisconsin have arrested a man trying to steal the teen's underwear.
It is the latest twist in a crime story that has gripped Americans and frustrated the huge team of experienced detectives and FBI agents working around the clock to locate 13-year-old Jayme Closs, whom they have classified as "missing and endangered".
Police found the bullet-riddled bodies of Denise and James Closs inside their isolated house in the woods near the tiny town of Barron after receiving a cryptic 911 just before 1am on October 15.
When officers arrived at the property just four minutes later, they found 56-year-old Mr Closs dead at the front door, which had reportedly been kicked in, the body of his wife, 46, in another room and their daughter Jayme missing.
A sweep of the area using drones, police dogs, infra-red technology and a grid search of nearby swamps and cornfields by more than 2000 volunteers failed to turn up even a single clue relating to the murders, the identity of the perpetrators or the child's fate.
Detectives thought they finally had a break in the case on Saturday when motion-activated spy cameras set up by police inside the Closs family home alerted them to a break in.
Officers rushed to the scene to find 32-year-old Kyle Jaenke-Annis inside Jayme's bedroom, rifling through the missing teen's belongings.
He was allegedly caught in possession of several items of her clothing, including two singlets, a pair of underwear and a dress which he had stuffed into his coat pocket, The Cheetak Alert reported.
When asked why he had taken the teen's clothes, Jaenke-Annis allegedly said he was "curious what size Jayme was" and believed he had chosen items that "would not be missed".
The incident, which played out as the rest of the community gathered at a joint funeral for James and Denise Closs, fuelled speculation Jaenke-Annis was behind the double murder kidnap and had returned to collect more clothes for Jayme.
In another sinister twist, it has emerged that Jaenke-Annis is a former employee at the Jennie-O turkey factory, where the murdered couple worked for almost 30 years and where at least half of Barron's 3,400 residents earn a living.
Despite the suspicious circumstances, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Jaenke-Annis had been "cleared of any involvement in (Jayme's) disappearance" but had been charged with burglary and bail jumping.
GUNSHOTS AND A CRYPTIC 911 CALL
The first hint that something was terribly wrong at the Closs family home came in the form of a garbled 911 call made at 12.58am on October 15.
Nobody spoke during the call, which lasted less than a minute, but the operator could hear a "commotion", and "a lot of yelling in the background".
Later, when police technicians cleaned the call up, the only word they were able to make out was "help".
The call was traced to Denise Closs' mobile phone and came from inside the home she shared with her husband James and their daughter Jayme, who had recently celebrated her 13th birthday.
When the first responding officers arrived at the scene, they found James Closs lying in the open doorway surrounded by empty bullet casings. Denise Closs was found in another room - police won't say which - and Jayme was nowhere to be seen.
A post mortem examination found the couple had been shot to death in a double homicide but police were unable to locate the murder weapon at the crime scene.
"We believe Jayme was home at the time of the homicides based on the evidence in our case," Sheriff Fitzgerald told reporters.
"Some of (the evidence) is from that 911 call and some of it is part of the active investigation, and we're not able to comment on why we believe that."
That indicates the perpetrators were able to kidnap Jayme and get away in the four minutes that elapsed between the 911 call ending and the arrival of the police.
In the days after the murders, police put out an alert for a red or orange Dodge Challenger and a black SUV captured on surveillance video near the Closs home at the time of the murders. The cars have never been tracked down.
NEIGHBOURS HEARD GUNSHOTS, DID NOTHING
The Closs family's only neighbours, Tom and Joan Smrekar, told reporters they heard gunshots at around 12.30am on the night of the murders.
They assumed it was either locals out hunting or a car backfiring and did not call police.
"We had come home about 11:30pm (and) went to bed about quarter after 12pm,"
Ms Smrekar told CCN anchor Ashley Banfield.
"We were not sleeping and we heard the first shot and just a couple of seconds later the second shot.
"And I asked my husband, I said, were those gunshots? Because they were so loud? And he said, yes, and he said, it`s a big gun and I rolled over and looked at the time on my clock, and it said 12:38.
"My clock is off by seven minutes per the Sheriff`s department, so this happened roughly around 12:30."
Police have interviewed the couple but have made no mention of witnesses hearing gunshots in any of their public statements.
The Smrekars have copped a barrage of criticism on social media for failing to call police but locals have jumped to their defence by pointing out that gunfire in rural areas is commonplace and rarely sinister in nature.
WAS JAYME INVOLVED IN THE MURDERS?
From the moment police revealed Jayme was missing, there has been public speculation about her possible involvement in the crime.
But at 152cm tall and weighing in at just 45kg, it's unlikely the youngster could have taken on both her parents without help.
Investigators have repeatedly stated that Jayme is not a suspect in her parent's murders and may have been targeted by a predator who is now holding her hostage at an unknown location.
The teen had no known boyfriends and there is no evidence of her having been groomed online, raising the horrifying possibility she was snatched by a stranger who had been watching from the shadows
Sheriff Fitzgerald has admitted police did not yet know if they were dealing with a random or targeted attack.
But rumours Jayme may have been in on the crime gained traction last week when her aunt Jennifer Smith read out a carefully worded letter to Jayme at a press conference organised by police.
Clutching Jayme's dog Molly, which was found unharmed at the family home, Ms Smith told the missing girl she was looking forward to taking her on a shopping date the two had planned and held up a bottle of Jayme's favourite iced coffee for the cameras.
"Jayme, not a moment goes by that we're not thinking of you and praying for you," she said. "We need you here to fill that hole in our hearts. We will never stop looking for you."
Some observers found it odd that Ms Smith had aimed her words at Jayme rather than her kidnappers, suggesting it could indicate the teen had some control over her situation.
Others saw it as an attempt to humanise Jayme to her kidnappers and make them think twice about harming her.
For now, though, investigators believe she is still alive.
"We believe Jayme's out there, Jayme's endangered and we need to bring a 13-year-old girl home," Sheriff Fitzgerald said.