M.E: "Isaiah most likely died shortly after he was reported miss - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Medical Examiner: Isaiah Theis most likely died not long after he was reported missing

Courtesy: Polk Co. Sheriff's Office Courtesy: Polk Co. Sheriff's Office
Children are placing their favorite stuffed animals for little Isaiah Theis near his home as a memorial. Children are placing their favorite stuffed animals for little Isaiah Theis near his home as a memorial.

Isaiah Theis Death Investigation Update from the Polk County Sheriff's Department:
The Polk County Sheriff confirms that the key for the vehicle that Isaiah was located in, was found inside the trunk with him. The Polk County Sheriff's Office doesn't normally comment on open investigations, but felt that since this information is already out there we would confirm that it is accurate. The Polk County Sheriff's Office will not be releasing further details of this investigation until it is closed.

We have been getting several requests for a "Time of Death". This information is not included in the preliminary autopsy summary. I asked for that information from the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office and received the following reply:

"Unlike television forensic programs, unless the death is witnessed, it is not possible to give an exact time of death. Multiple factors are taken into account when making an estimation of the time of death, including when the individual was last known to be alive. The time of death is only an estimate.

It can be said that the changes to Isaiah's body were consistent with him dying soon after the time he was last known to be alive. Case reports recording temperature changes within sealed, non air-conditioned cars in the summer document how quickly and how high the temperature within the car can rise. Individual cases of children who are left in sealed, non-air conditioned cars for a known period of time document how quickly, within a matter of hours, death can occur. It is most likely that Isaiah was deceased, or had experienced irreversible damage, by 9 p.m. if he was already in the trunk around the time it was reportedly realized he was missing."


Polk County (WQOW) - An area community is reaching out to a family grieving the loss of their child.

A memorial fund has been set up for the family of two year old Isaiah Theis. Isaiah was found by police last Wednesday night in the trunk of a car near his home in Centuria. A preliminary autopsy shows he died from heat exhaustion.

According to the fundraising website, the money donated will help offset the costs associated with Isaiah's funeral.

If you'd like more information about how you can help, click here.


Polk County (WQOW) - We're hearing from the pastor and family friend of two-year-old Isaiah Theis, who died earlier this week from heat exhaustion.

Isaiah was found in the trunk of a car near his home in Centuria, Wednesday night.

According to the pastor and family friend, Rick VanGundy, the keys to that car were also found in the trunk.            

VanGundy was among those who took part in the search for Isaiah. He says he used a flashlight himself to look inside and under the car, but says it never occurred to anyone at the time to look in the trunk because the car was locked. It wasn't until the owner of the car came with a second set of keys that they were found.

"The fact that we weren't able to open the trunks and find him sooner is the tragedy... The fact that we didn't have the keys because Isaiah had them with him is the hardest point for people to understand. The fact that he was able to use the keys is nothing out of the ordinary for Isaiah... He was exceptionally smart and mechanically inclined," says VanGundy.

WQOW News 18 reached out to the Polk County Sheriff's Department who says it cannot comment on the keys at this time because this is an ongoing investigation. 


Polk County (WQOW) - The Polk County Sheriff's Department updated us on Friday on the investigation into the death of Isaiah Theis. 

The toddler's body was found in the trunk of a car near his family's home on Wednesday night, a little over 24 hours after he was reported missing. 

"The primary preliminary findings are as follows: Isaiah was a normally developed well-nourished two-year-old boy. There were no life-threatening traumatic injuries or natural disease processes identified, and there were no fractures identified on a full-body radiograph. The preliminary cause of death is probable hyperthermia. The manner of death is pending investigation," said Sheriff Pete Johnson at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

Hyperthermia is a condition in which the body temperature spikes. The time of death has not been reported yet, but it would not have taken long for the temperature in the trunk to go well over 100 degrees on Tuesday night.

The sheriff says the manner of death is still pending.  We don't know how he ended up in the trunk.  The Polk County Sheriff said he hopes to have more information to release soon.

"You know, obviously this is pretty much the worst ending we could have come to. The only thing worse would have been if we had never found him. This is just one of the worst things I've ever had to do, and I'm the unfortunate one that had to make the notification to the parents. Unless you've ever been in that position, you can't imagine how uncomfortable and how traumatic that is. Obviously I have my own problems with that," said Sheriff Johnson.

Isaiah's body was found in the trunk of that maroon car, which was one his father had been working on.  Investigators said they believed the cars were all locked before Isaiah disappeared on Tuesday night, and they didn't have access to the keys.  The trunk was opened by an officer when the owner of the car came to pick it up on Wednesday night.

Another thing we don't know yet is whether there was a spare set of keys on the property since Isaiah's father had been working on the car.


Press Release from the Polk County Sheriff's Department: On 7/18/2013 the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Ramsey, Minnesota performed an autopsy examination on Isaiah Theis. Their preliminary findings are as follows:

-Isaiah was a normally developed, well nourished two year old

-There was no life threatening traumatic injuries or natural disease process identified

-There were no fractures identified on a full body radiograph

Cause of death: Probable hyperthermia

Manner of death: Pending investigation

Toxicology is pending


UPDATE Noon on Friday from Polk County Sheriff's Office: The Polk County Sheriff's office is anticipating the release of the preliminary autopsy findings to the press early Friday afternoon. 

I am going to try to have it out by 1 p.m.  I had not intended to conduct a press conference, but if it would assist those in the TV and Radio news mediums, I will schedule a time where I will read the aforementioned release in the lobby of the Polk County Justice Center.  That reading will be scheduled approximately 2 hours from the time of the release in order to give anyone that wants to attend, time to get here and get set up.  I do not anticipate answering any questions at that time.


UPDATE:  6:00 p.m. Thursday:

Isaiah's father repairs cars and Isaiah's body was found in a customer's car.  The sheriff's department describes the car as a maroon Chevrolet Malibu.  You can see a picture of it next to this story.  The car was located just feet from where the sheriff's department set up a command post outside the family's home.

Investigators say they did not have access to the keys to that car.  It was not initially searched because authorities were under the impression it was locked before Isaiah went missing Tuesday night and he would not have had access to the car.

Chief Deputy Steve Moe of Polk County explained, "Originally when Isaiah was reported missing a search around the area was done and information was gathered that Isaiah tended to want to wander.  There were three vehicles there that were customers' cars.  All three of those vehicles were locked and they didn't go into them or force entry into them cars until of course the owner voluntarily opened that one."

The owner came back to get his car and Isaiah's body was discovered.  Search dogs that were used did not pick up a scent near the car.  The sheriff's department would not speculate how Isaiah ended up in the trunk.

UPDATE:  1:50 p.m. Thursday:

Sheriff says Anoka County coroner out of Minnesota is conducting the autopsy.  Sheriff says they don't want to speculate anything on the case at this time and will release more information after the autopsy is complete.  Polk County Sheriff's Department is the lead investigator, but the Wisconsin Department of Justice is assisting.  WQOW News 18 spoke with a neighbor of the family who says Isaiah Theis' father worked on cars at his home.  We will have a report coming up tonight on News 18 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m. Thursday from Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson: 

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is calling for a press conference at 3:30 p.m. on 7/18/2013 in the lobby of the Justice Center, 1005 W. Main Street, Balsam Lake, WI 54810.  They do not intend to release any new information, but will give those present a recap of the release information as well as an opportunity to ask some general questions.  They said they will not be able to answer questions specific to the details of the investigation.

Chief Deputy, Steve Moe, will be the person to hold this conference.


UPDATE (10 a.m. Thursday): Press release from the Polk County Sheriff's Dept.

On 7/17/2013 at approximately 10:15 p.m., the body of two-year-old Isaiah Theis was located in the trunk of a locked vehicle located near the residence where he lived.  Initial reports indicate that while the vehicle had been looked into and the area around the vehicle had been searched several times, searchers had been advised that the vehicle had been locked prior to Isaiah being reported as missing and that it was extremely unlikely that he could have been in it based on that information.

At about 10 p.m., the owner of the car arrived to remove it.  Prior to the owner leaving with the car, a deputy opened the trunk and Isaiah was located.

The death of an otherwise healthy two-year-old boy requires a complete and thorough investigation as to any possible cause, whether that cause is accidental or criminal.  At this very early stage of the investigation, the cause and manner of death is unknown. 

The scene was processed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice with the assistance of the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the Polk County Medical Examiner's Office.

A full autopsy has been requested and it would be inappropriate for anyone to speculate as to the cause and nature of death until that examination has been done.

The investigation into Isaiah's death is being conducted by investigators of DOJ's Division of Criminal Investigation, the Polk County Sheriff's Office, and the Polk County Medical Examiner's office.

Registrations at the staging area indicate that approximately 2,450 civilian volunteers assisted with the search throughout the day on the 17th.  Without the assistance of those volunteers, we would not have been able to adequately search the areas that needed to be searched.  I couldn't be more impressed by the compassion of the people living in this area.  THANK YOU! To everyone that came to assist in the search, that provided food, water and other supplies or who assisted in many other ways to support this enormous effort.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m. Thursday): The Polk County Sheriff's Department is expected to issue a press release this morning with more information regarding the death of Isaiah Theis.  Continue to check back, as we will update this story with new details.

UPDATE (11:10 p.m. Wednesday): Press release from the Polk County Sheriff's Dept.

On 7/17/2013, just after 10 P.M. Isaiah Theis was located deceased by a law enforcement officer.  At this time no further information will be released tonight.

UPDATE (10 p.m. Wednesday):  Search teams have suspended their search for the night and will resume at 6 a.m. on Thursday.  Polk County Sheriff Pete Johnson says St. Louis County (MN) is sending a special search and rescue team on Thursday.  It's the same team that was instrumental in the search for a missing man five years ago in Burnett County.

If you'd like to volunteer, go to the Polk-Burnett Power Cooperative on Highway 35 in Centuria.  That's where volunteers are gathering.  Sheriff Johnson is urging volunteers to dress appropriately.

UPDATE (6 p.m. Wed):  The Polk County Sheriff has confirmed several volunteers and emergency workers treated for heat related illness from searching Wednesday.  More than 500 volunteers have shown up on scene for the search, which has grown to more than 2 square miles.  Searchers have cleared a lake and continue to search a swampy area.  Isaiah Theis has a history of wandering and rescuers are operating under that theory at this point.

If you'd like to help search, please contact the Polk County Sheriff's Department.  You can also drive up Highway 35 to the Polk-Burnett Power Cooperative at the volunteer staging area.  As of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night the search will have eclipsed the 24-hour period since the two-year-old went missing.

UPDATE: The Polk County sheriff says as of 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17 they still have not found missing 2-year-old Isaiah Theis but the search continues. The sheriff also said there is no reason to believe the toddler was kidnapped.

Polk Co. (Press Release) -- On 7/16/2013 at 8:49 p.m. Polk County Dispatch Center received a call of a missing two-year-old from a house on the 1500 block of 180th Street, near Centuria in Polk County.

According to his mother, two-year-old Isaiah Theis, was last seen in his house playing with his brother at approximately 7:30 p.m.  Upon realizing Isaiah was no longer in the house, the family, friends and neighbors began to search the immediate area.

When they were unable to locate him, they contacted law enforcement for assistance.  Law enforcement requested the assistance of both Centuria and Balsam Lake fire departments for manpower to assist in the search.

Volunteer searchers began to arrive on scene after reading of Isaiah being gone on social media web sites.  Approximately 150 volunteers had arrived to assist in the search.  Organized searches of the surrounding area were begun and the Minnesota State Patrol helicopter was also requested to assist with their Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) unit.  Unfortunately, no areas of interest were identified.

At about 1:30 a.m., after consulting with the family, the search was suspended until 6:00 a.m. because it was becoming dangerous for searches to continue in the dark.  It also provided law enforcement an opportunity to prepare for the next day's search.

At 6:00 a.m., the search resumed.  All of the areas searched last night were again searched.  The search today was intended to be a slower, more detailed search of those same areas in the daylight.

As the areas that we believe Isaiah would most likely be are again cleared, we will move the search farther.

Volunteer searchers continue to arrive.  We are asking that those that wish to help dress appropriately for the task and report to the Polk-Burnett complex in Centuria.  Volunteers will be asked to wait there until a search area is identified.  Search teams will be assembled and then they will be bussed to that area.

As of 9:30 a.m. the search has not located Isaiah.


Polk Co. (KSTP) -- A 2-year-old is missing after wandering away from his rural Wisconsin home Tuesday night.

Isaiah Theis was last seen wearing a green shirt, blue shorts, white socks, and possibly no shoes. His parents tell us they last saw Isaiah playing with his 5-year-old brother around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Centuria. They called police after they couldn't find him.

Overnight about 150 volunteers showed up to search for Isaiah. The Polk County Sheriff says they searched a one-square-mile area around the house, by foot and by air. That search was called off around 3 a.m. because the Polk County Sheriff's Office deemed it too dangerous.

Crews regrouped and began searching again at 6 a.m. Anyone with information is asked to call the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 715-485-8300.

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