Two weeks after a Wisconsin girl vanished and her parents were murdered, police say a man broke into her family’s home and stole her underwear.
It’s the latest bizarre turn in the nationwide search for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was reported missing on Oct. 15 after her parents were shot to death at their house in Barron, a small town in northwestern Wisconsin about 90 miles outside Minneapolis. Jayme was home when her family was killed, investigators say.
Cops have fielded more than 2,000 tips as part of the investigation, released images of two vehicles of interest, and enlisted community volunteers to scour the area for evidence. “There is a tip out there that will break this case,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said in a Facebook post on Monday. “Keep them coming in.”
Police haven’t released the names of any suspects or persons of interest in the murders and possible abduction. And there’s no known motive in the mysterious crime. But Fitzgerald said the alleged underwear burglar, 32-year-old Kyle Jaenke-Annis, “has been cleared of any involvement” in Jayme’s disappearance.
Jaenke-Annis was arrested Saturday after motion-activated cameras, which were set up by authorities, captured him entering the house’s east-side patio door around 2:22 a.m. Minutes later, a Barron County sheriff’s sergeant arrived on scene, followed by agents with the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation.
Prosecutors say Jaenke-Annis—who worked at the same turkey meat store as Jayme’s parents—had stuffed Jayme’s clothing into his coat pocket, including two tank tops, a pair of girls’ underwear and a dress.
The alleged thief told police that he left work at the Jennie-O Turkey Store that evening, then rode his bicycle to a laundromat. From there, he walked to the Closs’ house and noticed the patio door was unlocked, the complaint states.
Asked whether he knew the Closs family, Jaenke-Annis allegedly said “no.” (A 2012 story on the Barron Jennie-O plant listed the number of employees as around 1,200 workers at the facility.)
“Agents asked the defendant if there was a reason why he took the specific items that he did, meaning the female clothing,” the complaint states. Jaenke-Annis, who was wearing a puffy dark coat and stocking cap, replied that “these were items that people wouldn’t miss.”
He added that “he was curious about what size Jayme was,” the complaint says.
Jaenke-Annis is charged with burglary and felony bail jumping for committing a new crime in violation of bond. (His other pending case, from August, is for one count of burglary.)
The break-in came ahead of the Saturday afternoon funeral for Jayme’s parents, James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46. Jayme was the couple’s only child.
According to their obituary, James and Denise married in Las Vegas in June 2003, and they worked together at the Jennie-O store for 27 years.
Missy Ruffin, a coworker, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she worked alongside James every day for 15 years.
“I just hope they’re at peace,” Ruffin said after the Closses’ funeral. “They didn’t hurt nobody. They didn’t bother nobody.”
Investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the murders. “I don’t know why this took place,” Sheriff Fitzgerald told the Star Tribune over the weekend, adding, “I can’t imagine what the family is going through, laying two to rest and still one to bring home.”
Jayme and her mom were last seen at a family birthday party on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 14, while Jayme’s father worked at the meat plant.
Nothing seemed amiss at the celebration, Jayme’s grandfather Robert Naiberg told the Associated Press one day after the murders. Jayme “was quiet as always,” Naiberg said, and Denise brought “a little gift for everybody” at the gathering.
Yet later that night, just before 1 a.m., someone called 911 using Denise’s cellphone.
The 911 operator didn’t speak to the caller but “could hear a lot of yelling” in the background, authorities say. The call was “pinged” to the Closs residence.
Deputies arrived minutes later to find the Closses’ door “kicked in” and the bodies of James and Denise, who had been shot.
They also found the family’s dog, who was brought to the home of a relative, but Jayme was nowhere to be found. Indeed, Fitzgerald said police have received no confirmed sightings of the missing middle-schooler.
Last week, the sheriff’s office shared stock images of two vehicles of interest—an SUV and a muscle car—that were spotted near the Closs home at the time of the slayings.
The photos were of a 2004-2010 black Acura MDX and a 2006-2010 black Ford Edge, and a 2008-2014 red or orange Dodge Challenger.
“These are three images of the two vehicles of interest that we determined were in the area of the Closs home at the time of the incident,” Fitzgerald said in a Facebook post, adding, “Again, these are ONLY vehicles of interest.”
Meanwhile, neighbors said they heard gunshots around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 15 and figured the blasts might have come from hunters in the area.
Joan and Tom Smrekar told the Daily Mail they heard one gunshot, followed by another a few seconds later. The sound of gunfire isn’t uncommon because of area hunters, but Joan said the timing and volume of the shots gave her pause.
She said she regrets not calling 911 right away. “If [police] had been there four minutes after the shots, Jayme might not have been taken,” Joan said.