Neighbor recalls missing girl Jayme Closs’ family as being quiet & uninvolved with others, relives hearing ‘loud’ gunshots

The neighbor of missing, endangered teen Jayme Closs is speaking out about the traumatic incident last Monday that left two members of the quiet family next door dead and their only daughter nowhere to be found.

Wausau Daily Herald reports that Joan Smrekar, neighbor to the Closs family, heard loud gunshots at around 12:30 a.m. last Monday and although it wasn’t unusual to hear shots in their rural Barron area, there was something distinctively different about the shots she heard that morning. Not only were the shots much louder than usual, but it was strange to Smrekar that she heard the gunshots at a time when people in the area were generally not out hunting.

“They were just seconds apart,” the neighbor explained to the outlet. “They both seemed really strange to both my husband and me.”

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Smrekar decided against calling the police. The following day, she learned that 56-year-old James Closs and his wife, 46-year-old Denise Closs, had been fatally shot. She also learned that their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme, had been abducted.

“We live in a rural area and we sometimes hear people shooting. I thought it was just a neighbor shooting a bear,” Smrekar told RadarOnline last week. “We didn’t know until the next morning, when the sheriff came and said the neighbors have been shot.”

Smrekar also stated that the Closs family generally kept to themselves and never made any noise. According to Smrekar, the Closs family didn’t interact much with neighbors and she rarely saw them outside. She said they never came to the door on the occasional times she brought their mail to them.

“I didn’t ever see James and Denise. They kept to themselves. We’d sometimes take the mail over, but they wouldn’t even come to the door even when they were home.”

Smrekar said she felt terrible about not calling the police, but at the time, she didn’t think such a tragedy was happening.

Meanwhile, Jayme remains missing.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, at 12:53 a.m. on Monday, a call to the Barron County 911 dispatch came from the cell phone of Denise Closs. The caller didn’t speak directly to the 911 dispatcher but there was “a lot of noise” and sounds of distress in the background. After the call disconnected, the dispatcher called the number back numerous times but didn’t get an answer. The dispatcher then called the home’s landline, but it had been disconnected.

Three different officers were dispatched to the family’s home, around 45 miles northwest of Eau Claire.

An officer arrived at the family’s Barron home by 1 a.m. and found James Closs by the front door. At 1:03 a.m., the officer noted that a male was down and “multiple rounds” had been spent. The incident was initially thought to be a suicide before the officer knew Denise had also been shot. At 1:06 a.m., the officer stated that the front door had apparently been kicked in.


At 1:11 a.m., an officer reported that both James and Denise “were down” and unresponsive. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald later confirmed that both victims had been shot and killed. Their deaths were listed as homicides.

Over two hours later, at 3:57 a.m., officers entered Jayme into the system as a “missing juvenile.” They combed the house and area thoroughly for the teen first, noting that they couldn’t find her nor any clues to her whereabouts. At  5:13 am, dispatchers sent out a “Missing Endangered Child” notification, indicating Jayme was likely abducted from the residence. Authorities later said she was likely taken by gunpoint.

Six days and over 1,000 tips later, Jayme remains missing. Authorities previously stated they didn’t have a description of a suspect. There was nothing amiss in her home or school life on surface, and family and friends said Jayme did not have a boyfriend. Investigators reportedly searched her social media accounts and didn’t find anything unusual.

Jayme Closs [Facebook]

As CrimeOnline previously reported, authorities are now asking anyone who knew James or Denise Closs to come forward with any information.

“We are seeking information about the victims Denise and James Closs. We are hopeful to learn more about the Closs family to help bring Jayme home. If you spent time with members of the Closs family recently or if you have ever had a misunderstanding with any members of the Closs family or know someone who has, please call the tip line,” Barron County Sherriff, Chris Fitzgerald, said on Friday.

Investigators are also asking people to observe family members, friends, or people they know in the community for any behavior that seems out of the norm, including:

  • Missing work for no apparent reason
  • Missing scheduled appointments
  • Leaving town without a reasonable explanation
  • Increase in drug and/or alcohol use
  • Altering their appearance
  • Paying “too much or too little” attention to the case, such as quickly shutting the news off when it reports on Jayme and her parents
  • Selling and/or getting rid of a vehicle

Jayme is described as a white female who stands 5-feet tall, weighs around 100 pounds, and has green eyes and strawberry blond hair.

Read 911 transcript here

Anyone with any information on Jayme’s whereabouts is urged to contact a tip line made specifically for her case at 1-855-744-3879.

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[Feature Photo: Jayme Closs/Handout]