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Gathering offers hope for teen missing since parents’ deaths

BARRON, Wis. — A Wisconsin girl who investigators believe was kidnapped after her parents were killed two months ago is being honored in her hometown with a Christmas tree adorned with messages of hope for her safe return.

Hundreds of people attended a gathering Wednesday evening in Barron to light a “tree of hope” for 13-year-old Jayme Closs. The middle school student hasn’t been seen since before her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found fatally shot in their home on Oct. 15.

“We just pray every day and we just hope for her safe return,” said her uncle, Mike Closs.

Jayme Closs

Jayme Closs “Tree of Hope”

Detectives have pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and spent countless hours searching for Jayme, but their efforts haven’t yielded any suspects . Investigators believe Jayme was abducted.

The 16-foot tree was erected at Riverview Middle School and decorated with messages such as “Pray for Jayme” and “Bring Jayme Home.” The tree was lighted in blue, her favorite color, and green to symbolize missing child awareness.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told WEAU-TV that there have been no new breaks in the case, but he said the Wednesday event lifted his spirits. The gathering included songs, the release of lighted lanterns, and a message from Barron native and “The Voice” finalist Chris Kroeze.

“I haven’t smiled in a long time, so this is awesome,” Fitzgerald said.

The event was coordinated by the school and by Hormel Foods and Jennie-O Turkey Store, which employed the Closs parents.

“May this tree of hope for Jayme, filled with shining lights, be a symbol to us, to our community, that the darker it gets, the brighter light of hope shines,” the Rev. Ron Matthews said.

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