Search expands for missing autistic Iowa teen - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Search expands for missing autistic Iowa teen

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KWWL -

It has been nearly 72 hours since 16-year-old Jake Wilson was seen leaving his La Porte City home Saturday night. 

The massive search to bring Jake home has brought hundreds of volunteers and multiple local, state and national agencies to the small Iowa city.

Jake, who has autism, was last seen wearing a brown jacket, dark sweatpants and cowboy boots.  His mother, Megan Neiswonger, says her son left without his glasses around 9 p.m. Saturday to walk to the nearby Wolf Creek. 

It has now been three days since Jake was seen. 

Tuesday's search began with a sweep of a small area along the creek's bank. More than 300 volunteers linked arms and slowly walked the area, scanning the ground for any sign of Jake.

Those who showed up to give their time say it's just what you do. It's what it means to be an Iowan.

"I think so. Especially small towns. I really do believe that small towns get together maybe a little bit better," said Paul Mittan, a volunteer from Blairstown.

After multiple searches of the creek and bank with kayaks and sonar over the past two days, dive teams were deployed Tuesday into the chilly murky waters.

On land, caravans of UTVs and ATVs moved out, leaving the La Porte City Fire Department to cover miles of trails and open fields.

With much of Tuesday's search including new territory in an expanded nine-mile radius, the operation is using every tool available, including drones, UTVs, ATVs, horses and dogs to cover the large area.

"We stayed strong from yesterday to today. I assume that we will probably end at about 400 [volunteers], about like we did yesterday. That is a good sign. It shows there is still a lot of optimism in the community," said La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher.

Hitting the three-day mark, Chief Brecher says, because Jake is autistic and now off his medication, they are anticipating changes in his behavior.

"As his mentality changes, they way he does things changes. We have to plan for a multitude of emotions that would come from him; maybe he would start hiding out," said Chief Brecher, going on to list other possible behavior changes.

As the search expands, so does the investigation. Special investigators are working on every angle, sifting through hours of surveillance video and witness statements.

"We've got a very small window of time that we don't know where we are at. We are still nailing that down. As well as there is a ton of ancillary evidence coming in and things we are digesting," said Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson.

Sheriff Thompson says the number of agencies involved in the investigation continues to grow. The operation now includes FBI agents from multiple states, DCI, Iowa Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, various local law enforcement investigators, and representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

If you have any information on Jake, law enforcement is asking people to call the La Porte City Police Department at 319-342-2232, or the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office at 319-291-2515.

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