October 17, 2018 / 11:41 PM / a month ago

Sheriff says 'every second counts' in search for Wisconsin girl

(Reuters) - Despite more than 400 tips from across the country about the disappearance of 13-year-old Jayme Closs, a Wisconsin sheriff said on Wednesday he had few solid leads about the whereabouts of the girl, whose parents were found fatally shot in their home this week.

“We believe Jayme was in the home at the time of the homicides and we believe she’s in danger,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, who is leading the search, told a news conference.

Police issued an Amber Alert for the girl on Monday afternoon after discovering the bodies of her parents earlier that day. The deaths of James and Denise Closs, who had suffered gunshot wounds, were ruled homicides on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said.

While 82 percent of the Amber Alerts issued last year identified a car and 50 percent had specific license plate numbers, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, Closs’ case offers neither of those clues.

Fitzgerald said there were no suspects in the case.

“Is it random or targeted? I don’t know that answer. We’ve received no other threats or anything in the local area to say it was just a random act, but we do not know that answer,” he said. Barron County is in northwest Wisconsin.

“We have over 200 law enforcement workers on the ground right now,” Fitzgerald said. “Every second counts.”

Jayme Closs, 13, is shown in this undated handout photo provided October 17, 2018. Office of the Attorney General, Wisconsin Deparment of Justice/Handout via REUTERS

In Closs’ case, law enforcement is depending on public awareness to supply evidence. The Amber Alert system, launched in 1996, is a tool to notify the public about missing children so tips can be relayed to law enforcement agencies.

“I cannot stress that tip line enough. Every tip is important,” Fitzgerald said.

In 2017, 99 percent of Amber Alert cases were solved, with only two cases outstanding at the end of the year. Of the children found, 96 percent were recovered within 72 hours of the alert.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Peter Cooney

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