BARRON — Tom and Joan Smrekar woke up early Monday to the sound of two gunshots, seconds apart. Joan Smrekar looked at the clock by her bed. It was 12:31 a.m.
“Those two shots were so loud,” Tom Smrekar said Tuesday.
Joan Smrekar said she initially didn’t think anything of it.
“We hear people hunting,” she said. “I told Tom, ‘Maybe there was a bear in a yard, and they were trying to scare away an animal.’”
The Smrekars live about 300 feet from James, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, who were found dead in their rural Barron home by law enforcement early Monday, after police received a call from a cellphone within the home. The Closses’ daughter, 13-year-old Jayme, is missing and considered endangered.
While the Smrekars heard gunshots, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald has not confirmed how the Closses were killed. While he said there is an obvious cause of death, they have not recovered a weapon.
The Smrekars don’t think the incident at their neighbors’ home was a random act.
“There are much more grandiose houses in the country than these,” Tom Smrekar said, noting that both houses are relatively close to U.S. 8 and aren’t isolated.
Joan Smrekar said she is trying to stay upbeat and not think about the horrific incident.
“This is someone killing someone else, and it is right next door,” she said.
The FBI stopped at the Smrekars’ home Monday and asked them a variety of questions. The Smrekars also allowed agents to search their home, just in case Jayme Closs — or anyone else involved — could be hiding inside.
Tom Smrekar said the Closses moved in next door about seven years ago, but he has spoken with them only a handful of times.
“They were fine neighbors,” he said. “We really don’t know them — our contact has been minimal.”
Bard Kittleson, the former Barron mayor, said the deaths have been the talk throughout the area, as people have speculated what happened, and why.
“It’s kind of a shock to this community,” Kittleson said. “Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in a rural community, where everybody knows everybody.”
He added: “Now what is important is finding that little girl.”
Fitzgerald spoke to media from across northwestern Wisconsin and the Twin Cities on Tuesday, urging people to look for any signs of Jayme Closs.
“Every second counts in a case like this,” he said. “We have every resource across this nation working this case.”
Fitzgerald debunked a rumor that she was seen in Miami.
“Every tip continues to be followed up on,” he added. “We’re following up on phones and on social media.”
It is still unclear what happened at the house, located at 1268 Highway S, one mile west of Barron. The sheriff’s office received a call on a cellphone, and while no one spoke to the dispatcher, there was clearly some kind of disturbance occurring in the house.
Fitzgerald said he is withholding details about what occurred in the house, including the manner of death, at this time.
“If we think it’s key for the public, we’ll disseminate that information,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he wants to bring Jayme home safely.
“(Jayme) is a sweet and shy 13-year-old who likes dancing and sports,” Fitzgerald said. She is described as 5 feet tall, about 100 pounds, with green eyes and blonde-strawberry hair.
There is no history of run-ins with law enforcement at the home, including no custody disputes, he previously said.
James and Denise Closs both worked at the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant in Barron for 27 years.
“Our thoughts are with the Closs family and the entire Barron community,” company President Steve Lykken and Chad Nisbit, the Barron plant manager, said in a statement. “Jim and Denise were long-time members of the Jennie-O Turkey Store family. This is a difficult time for our entire team and we are mourning this loss and are still processing this terrible tragedy. We are also hopeful for the safe return of their daughter, Jayme, and are keeping her and the Closs family in our thoughts.”
In addition to the FBI, the Barron County sheriff’s office is being assisted in the investigation by the state Division of Criminal Investigation. Anyone with information about what happened at the home, or if they have seen Jayme Closs or have any information about her whereabouts, should contact the sheriff’s office at 715-537-3106.