CASE CLOSED: District attorney explains decision not to file cri - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

CASE CLOSED: District attorney explains decision not to file criminal charges in toddler death

Courtesy: Justin Theis Courtesy: Justin Theis
Polk County (WQOW) - One year ago Wednesday hundreds of volunteers flooded a small town in Polk County, where the search for a 2-year-old boy began. Two days later, that search came to a tragic end when Isaiah Theis's body was discovered in the trunk of a car.

As you first saw on  Wednesday, The Polk County District Attorney says there will not be any criminal charges filed against the parents or anyone else. District Attorney, Dan Steffen, told WQOW News 18 as far as his office is concerned, this is a closed case. He says it's been a lengthy investigation because of all the different agencies involved, including the DCI and FBI.   

It's taken one year, re-watching hours of interviews and combing through hundreds of pages of evidence, before Steffen felt confident making a decision. He says, "In order to file criminal charges I have an ethical duty to make sure I can prove those beyond a reasonable doubt. We just wanted to make sure we really covered all our bases and we're as comfortable and as confident in making a decision that this was a tragic accident, every parent’s nightmare and nothing more than that. And I think at this point I'm as comfortable as I'm going to get in making a decision not to file any charges."

2-year-old Isaiah Theis was discovered in the trunk of this maroon car, two days after going missing from his rural home near Centuria. Polk County Sheriff, Peter Johnson, says, "This is a case people will second guess us forever. All I can says is I know at the time, we made the best decisions we could with the information we had."

The car belonged to a customer of Isaiah's dad, who owns a repair shop. The car was just feet from where the sheriff's department set up a command post during their two day search. Sheriff Johnson says, "Mom and dad and all the neighbors were reporting that Isaiah was a wanderer, when he was gone outside he was down in the woods. And that was our primary concern, two-years-old, as it was getting dark, we didn't want him on the road we didn't want him in the woods."

The trunk was not initially searched because authorities were under the impression it was locked before Isaiah went missing and he would not have had access to it. "After he was found and the investigation continued, we received all of the information and of course 20/20 being hindsight, it was possible," explains Sheriff Johnson.  

The sheriff's department says the keys were with Isaiah when he was found. Steffen says, "They did re-creations with a child of Isaiah's similar size and age which confirmed that the version which we believe happened, very easily could have occurred."

But a closed case doesn't necessarily bring closure. Sheriff Johnson says, "It's a tragic end to a story and doing that notification was probably one of the toughest things I've had to do in my law enforcement career, which is almost 25 years now."

Steffen says, "I don' think there's any sort of blame to go around here. Sometimes there's just a perfect storm of how things happen and sometimes the perfect storm leads to tragic outcomes and that's what I believe happened here."

Investigators believe Isaiah somehow got a hold of the keys and climbed into the trunk himself.

WQOW News 18 did speak with Isaiah's dad, Justin, who says Isaiah was an intelligent boy with an adventurous spirit. If you remember, thousands of people turned out for the search.  Justin wanted to extend his gratitude to everyone who was a part of it.

Many viewers have been weighing in on social media. Mary R. posted and she says "I'm still locking the doors on my car inside of my own garage just so my grandchildren don't do the same thing. Isaiah Theis's death taught us to safeguard our children from this happening again."


Polk Co. (WQOW) - It was a year ago today that 2-year-old Isaiah Theis went missing from his home in Polk County. The search ended tragically a couple of days later when authorities found the boy's body in the trunk of a car just outside his home.

Today, Polk County District Attorney Dan Steffen told WQOW News 18 that the case is officially closed and no charges will be filed. Tonight on WQOW News 18, we'll take a look at what led to that decision.

Read the background of this story, by clicking on the related link to the right-hand side of this article.
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