Three months after his disappearance, no clues have surfaced in the case of a UW-Stout student who went missing from downtown Eau Claire in November.
A public search for James B. Liedtka, 28, of Eau Claire, organized by members of his family, will be held in Eau Claire on March 23.
Liedtka, a U.S. Army veteran, and several friends were on Water Street in Eau Claire Saturday evening, Nov. 3, according to the Eau Claire Police Department.
Liedtka left his friends later Saturday night, but had contact with one of them via telephone at 12:25 a.m. Sunday.
Nearly an hour later, surveillance footage at 1:13 a.m. showed Liedtka walking alone behind The Pickle tavern, 341 Water St.
It was the last time Liedtka was seen. He was reported missing the next day.
Eau Claire police and fire departments searched the banks of the Eau Claire River between the 200 and 400 blocks of Water Street on Nov. 13 but found no sign of James.
The Eau Claire Police Department doesn’t have any leads, but the investigation is active, said Eau Claire Police Department Lt. Derek Thomas.
“The case will never stop until he’s located,” Thomas said.
The department doesn’t have any evidence that James is in the river, but its Nov. 13 search of the riverbanks was “due diligence” during the investigation, Thomas said.
Police have examined public cameras and talked to potential witnesses but have come up with no new tips, Thomas said.
“Right now it’s important for people to know he’s not forgotten, and that the case is active and ongoing,” Thomas said.
Liedtka’s aunt, Valerie Parker, hopes that volunteers will unearth new information on March 23 about her nephew’s disappearance.
“To date we still have no new info. No tips, no clues,” Parker said. “We really just want to bring him home.”
Parker and other Liedtka family members — who run a Facebook page called Bring James Home — plan to organize more public searches in April if weather permits.
Liedtka served in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, family members said.
He entered the manufacturing engineering program at UW-Stout in fall 2017, said Doug Mell, UW-Stout executive director of communications.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the family and friends of James Liedtka,” Mell said. “The entire UW-Stout community is hoping for some closure for them as they struggle with this tragedy.”
Liedtka’s sister, Kristen Liedtka, who lived with him in Eau Claire, is hopeful James will be found, though there are days when she doubts he’s safe, she said.
“It’s really hard when you don’t know,” Kristen said. “If (people) know anything, please contact the police so we can find my brother.”
The public search is slated for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 23. Volunteers are asked to meet at the American Legion Post 53, 634 Water St., between 8 and 8:30 a.m. to check in, Parker said. Organizers will assign searchers to a group and send them to a specific area. Volunteers should bring warm and brightly-colored clothing, preferably blaze orange, walking shoes, water and binoculars.
James is described as 5-foot-7, about 170 pounds, with black hair and dark brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a maroon shirt, jeans and a baseball cap.
Those with information about James’ whereabouts are urged to call the Eau Claire Police Department’s communications center at 715-839-4972.