While not unexpected, the somber words from La Porte City Chief of Police Chris Brecher confirmed what a grieving La Porte City family and community has suspected for nearly two weeks.
“On August 8, 2018, human remains were discovered in Wolf Creek. At this time, we have been able to positively identify these remains as those of Jake Wilson. There is further analysis that is currently in progress. We hope these will provide more definitive answers to the questions that we all seek. This is an ongoing investigation. This is a very sensitive situation for the entire community. We ask for everybody’s support for the family, to give them the space that they need to grieve, to give the community time to grieve. This is a very difficult time for all of us.”
Sixteen year old Jake Wilson disappeared the evening of Saturday, April 7 after leaving his home to walk a short distance to Wolf Creek. More than 800 volunteers turned out the next day to search for the autistic teen, who remained missing until kayakers spotted human remains on the creek earlier this month.
The investigation, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said, remains open as the State Medical Examiner’s office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s Crime Lab continue to examine the remains and other evidence collected.
“They are meticulously going over all of the items that we’ve recovered out of the water for those signs of foul play, for those indicators of what might have happened. We’ll continue to wait patiently and work patiently with those partners to see where we go from here,” he stated.
“At this point, I’m not even going to speculate on what they may find as they microscopically look at the bones and the items that we recovered. We will react to whatever information they can provide us. What we don’t want is to continue to put this family through the difficulties they’ve been experiencing the last four months,” he added.
Until that work has been completed, an official cause of death will remain undetermined, Chief Brecher announced.
As local law enforcement awaits forensic results, the investigation remains fluid, flexible.
“We are going to simply react and respond to what information is presented to us next, whether that comes from the State Medical Examiner, whether that comes from the DCI Crime Lab, whether that comes from a kayaker on the creek. Out of respect to the integrity of the investigation, the family and a community that has been so engaged, [we] remain open to any and all possibilities to whatever may come,” Thompson commented.
While evidence early on indicated Wolf Creek was the place to be looking for Jake, a number of factors, including a very late, cold Spring and the idiosyncrasies of the creek itself, contributed to the difficulties in locating him.
“Everything shifts in the bottom of this creek. There’s a lot of sand. There’s a lot of silt. And there’s a lot of holes that are constantly getting filled. There’s holes constantly being created by anything that happens to be in the creek,” Brecher explained.
“I think he was missed because he was some place that was very difficult to nearly impossible to search, until such time the creek was willing to give him back. Mother Nature was willing to give him back and we happened to be there when she did,” Thompson said.
Despite a near textbook missing persons response and investigation, members of law enforcement remain frustrated over the inability to locate Jake sooner, considering the large number of volunteers who turned out to search for him, the deployment of rescue and recovery dogs and the use of advanced technology both in and out of the water.
” I wish we could have wrapped this up in the first three weeks when we had 800 volunteers there. I wish we could have done something more,” Thompson said.
Reflecting on the case, Thompson shared one additional thought he and Brecher recently discussed.
“What a neat young man. And if the legacy is that if he, in a really unfortunate set of circumstances, has done a tremendous job of bringing this community together, then that’s a lasting legacy of something to be proud of, too,” he said.