Jake Wilson

Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson says the scale of the search for a missing La Porte City teenager, now in its third day, is similar to what took place in Evansdale nearly six years ago.

“You know, that case is still painful for me. That’s a case that still frustrates me and I still have nightmares about,” Thompson said. Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey disappeared while riding their bicycles in Evansdale in July 2012. The bodies of the two cousins were found about five months later. Police still don’t know who abducted and killed the girls.

Thompson says the lessons learned from that case have helped in this week’s search for 16-year-old Jake Wilson, who has autism. He hasn’t been seen since Saturday night. Hundreds of volunteers have been involved in the La Porte City search – including Drew Collins, father of Elizabeth Collins.

“When I saw (Drew Collins), I started to well-up with tears a little bit,” Thompson said. “He wanted to meet the family, talk with them, provide support, and that’s awesome.” So far, searchers haven’t found anything to indicate where Jake Wilson might be located. According to Thompson, the experience gained from 2012 in Evansdale is making a difference in La Porte City.

“This is so much more organized,” Thompson said. “If I was dealing with 800 people back in that summer we lost Lyric and Elizabeth…that was just coordination nightmare. This time it was very organized. So, we have learned some lessons that we’ve employed.” Volunteers have been using ATVs and horses to search fields and wooded areas, while police are using drones and sonar.

“It’s a very robust search with a lot of different technical assets, as well as people on foot,” Thompson said. Up to 30 law enforcement agencies have been involved in the search for Jake Wilson.

“I’m very comfortable that we’re getting stuff covered the way you would want it to be covered if it was your child,” Thompson said. “We continue to hold out hopes and prayers that this is an effort that is going to find him alive and well.” Thompson said there’s no evidence yet to indicate foul play or that this might be a criminal case.

(Elwin Huffman-KOEL, Waterloo contributed to this story.)