LA PORTE CITY, Iowa (AP) — Human remains recovered from a creek this week are believed to be those of a 16-year-old autistic boy who vanished from his small Iowa hometown in April, authorities said Thursday.
Jake Wilson's disappearance had prompted a search involving the FBI, state and local police officers, and hundreds of volunteers in La Porte City, a town of 2,300 in northeastern Iowa.
Wilson was last seen April 7, when he said he was going for a walk blocks from his home along Wolf Creek, which winds through La Porte City. His family said he didn't have his glasses on at the time, and that he has the mental capacity of a 9-year-old boy.
Police said at a news conference that human remains were discovered in the creek Tuesday by recreational kayakers in an area that had been searched repeatedly over the last four months by authorities.
La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher said that testing by the medical examiner shows the remains are "consistent with what we're looking for." He said investigators were not yet in any position to determine whether foul play was involved.
Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said the creek's conditions had changed dramatically since the spring, when the water was higher, and the shift may have paved the way for the discovery. He said that additional searches and testing were underway and urged kayakers to stay out of the creek in the coming days.
"We want to know why, we want to know how" the teen died, Thompson said.
Thompson said the discovery points to an unfortunate ending in a case that had touched many people in eastern Iowa. Wilson's smiling face was plastered on missing posters throughout the region, and his family described Jake as a gentle lover of nature who simply never came home from a walk on a spring day.
The discovery comes amid a massive search for missing college student Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared from the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa, on July 18. Thompson noted that the Tibbetts case has renewed interest in the plight of Wilson and other missing Iowa residents in recent weeks.
"We hope we are getting close to getting to draw a conclusion on this particular one," he said.