MADISON (WKOW) — As family members of teen Jayme Closs prepare for Friday’s sentencing of her kidnapper, 21-year-old Jake Patterson, the loved ones of another missing teenager regret their dashed hopes on the day Closs was rescued.
Barron’s Closs escaped from Patterson’s remote cabin in Douglas County and found help Jan. 10. Several hours earlier on that same day, a massive law enforcement response in rural Walworth County prompted Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald to publicly rule out the response as related to the 13-year-old Closs’s disappearance.
For Tonya Fonseca and Jenna Winkler, the response felt like possible closure.
In 1987, their teenage uncle, 19-year-old Chris Winkler of Burlington disappeared.
With the disappearance in a neighboring county, the nieces believed this incident would finally confirm what happened to their loved one.
“We were talking because we thought it was Chris buried at the farm,” Jenna Winkler says.
“We were freaking, we were hoping maybe we got a break this time,” Fonseca says.
The law enforcement attention turned out to be in connection to deaths unrelated to Winkler.
Even as another possible clue to her uncle’s whereabouts evaporated, Jenna Winkler says there was happiness and admiration over the Closs missing person case being solved with her escape.
“She’s brave, she had a lot of courage,” Winkler says.
Winkler and Fonseca attended a state Capitol ceremony Thursday reinforcing law enforcement’s commitment to finding missing persons, and increasingly sophisticated ability through DNA testing to hold those responsible for disappearances responsible.
“We are here to support the families of those that remain missing,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul says.
“We still actively search and look for him, we have Facebook pages and podcasts,” Fonseca says of her missing uncle.
At the time of his disappearance, Winkler was a suspect in a burglary. Fonseca says authorities have attempted to interview Winkler’s alleged accomplices about his disappearance.
“And they have had some people that I know were suspects, I would say, but of course we never had his body or any smoking gun,” Fonseca says.
Racine County Sheriff’s investigators ask anyone with information on Winkler’s disappearance to call 262-636-3367.
Winkler’s nieces say as they continue their search, they are trying to help other families who are going through the life-changing ordeal of a missing loved one.
“We’re really trying to change some of the databases to make them more effective,” Fonseca says.
A Barron County judge Friday will decide if Patterson’s life sentence for the kidnap of Jayme Closs and the murder of her parents will involve any chance for parole.