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Jake A. Wilson, a 16-year-old autistic teen, went missing from his La Porte City, Iowa home around 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, 2018, after telling his family he was going for a walk to nearby Wolf Creek. A search began less than an hour later when he didn’t return home, and he was reported as missing to the La Porte City Police Department.
His mother, Megan Neiswonger, has said her autistic son has a mild intellectual disorder and functions at the level of a 9-year-old.
Jake is described as a 5-foot-6 white male with blond hair, hazel eyes, and weighing about 135 pounds.
An outgoing nature-lover, Jake left home without his glasses and was dressed in a brown zip-up hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and cowboy boots.
Temperatures were unusually cold for April, and nearby Waterloo set a record low of 12 degrees the morning after Jake disappeared.
Over the weekend, officials cleared a large area of Wolf Creek in their search for Wilson, according to La Porte City police. Machinery was brought in to remove blockages, but no relevant discoveries were found.
His parents have searched endless hours along the creek, handed out dozens of fliers in neighboring towns and have tried to maintain a positive attitude for their three other teenage boys.
“It’s just that disappearing factor that is so incredibly nightmarish,” said Jake’s stepfather, Jeremy Neiswonger, in a Des Moines Register story published April 24, 2018. “We don’t know what to do. It’s like having the flu: Our stomachs hurt, our hearts ache, we feel sick. And it’s just — I don’t want to say we’re losing hope, because we can’t allow that to happen …”
“But,” Megan said, finishing his sentence, “we feel hopeless.”
The Register also said the family is remaining hopeful in a trying time. The April 24 story
As water crews continued Thursday to search the creek, La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher echoed words officials have told the public since April 7: “We can’t rule anything out.”
Investigators are trying to find that “one golden nugget” of information that will tell them whether Jake was kidnapped or if he was in the creek, he said.
“We’d like to rule something out right now, but we just can’t,” Brecher said.
Detectives and searchers on the ground are not giving up hope that they will find Jake alive, the chief said.
About 100 agencies on the federal, state and local levels have assisted in the search for Jake, including the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local sheriff’s departments, fire and police departments, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the American Red Cross.
Brecher has talked with investigators in other parts of the country that specialize in finding missing children and said they have found other teenagers with Jake’s intellect within 10 days.
“They said don’t give up hope, and we haven’t,” he said. “Everybody has that little piece of hope that gets them through these trying times.”
~ The Des Moines Register, April 24, 2018
The FBI has created a website, www.fbi.gov/laportecityiowa, where people can upload photos or videos taken in La Porte City, Wilson’s hometown, on the day he went missing. Authorities say a bicycle ride and a class reunion brought in people from out of town that day.
Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson stressed that authorities are still treating Jake’s disappearance as a missing person case, but they continue to investigate all angles, including the chance Jake was abducted or fell into the creek in the dark.
Anyone with information about Jake’s disappearance is asked to contact the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 291-2587 or the La Porte City Police Department at (319) 342-2232.
Read more stories about Jake’s disappearance below.