BARRON COUNTY, Wis. — Once-missing teenager Jayme Closs escaped from the remote Wisconsin residence of her captor — a man now arrested on suspicion of killing her parents and abducting her three months ago — before the girl flagged down a woman who was walking her dog, authorities say.
In a case that inspired numerous searches and thousands of public tips, it was 13-year-old Jayme who helped herself to freedom Thursday afternoon.
“In cases like this we often need a big break, and it was Jayme herself who gave us that break,” FBI Special Agent Justin Tolomeo told reporters Friday during a news conference in Jayme’s Wisconsin hometown of Barron.
Jayme, who was reported missing October 15 after her parents were found shot dead in their home near Barron, was discovered walking alone Thursday afternoon two counties to the north, outside the town of Gordon, authorities said.
Her accused abductor — Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, of Gordon — was arrested shortly afterward, when a law enforcement officer pulled him over in a vehicle after neighbors called 911 to report Jayme’s emergence, authorities said.
Investigators now believe Patterson killed Jayme’s parents — James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46 — at their home in October and abducted Jayme, and that it appears he went there with the precise intention of taking the girl, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
A motive — and whether Patterson and the Closs family knew each other — remains under investigation, authorities said.
Patterson was being held Friday in Barron County on preliminary charges of first-degree intentional homicide and kidnapping, Fitzgerald said.
“For 88 days I have stood before you and (promised) we’d work tirelessly to bring (Jayme) home,” Fitzgerald said. “Last night our collective promise was fulfilled.”
Jayme says abductor killed her parents, woman who helped her says
Kristin Kasinskas, a woman who helped report Jayme’s emergence to police, spoke to CNN on Friday about what happened.
Jayme had approached Kasinskas’ neighbor — the woman police say was walking her dog — Thursday afternoon.
They rushed to Kasinskas’ home, where Kasinskas says 911 was called.
Kasinskas said Jayme told her she had been held in the Gordon area — near Kasinskas’ home — by someone who killed her parents on the night she disappeared.
“She said to us that, ‘This person killed my parents and took me,'” Kasinskas told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
“She said that this person usually hides her or hides her when others are near, or when he has to leave the household. She did not go into detail about how she got out of the house or anything like that.”
Jayme expected to be released from hospital Friday, godmother says
The sheriff’s department in Douglas County, where the town of Gordon is located, announced Thursday that it had located Jayme alive late Thursday afternoon and that a suspect was arrested 10 minutes later.
Jennifer Smith, Jayme’s godmother, told WCCO that Jayme was recovering in a hospital near Duluth, Minnesota, and is expected to be released Friday.
Jayme’s aunt, Sue Allard, told WCCO of a rollercoaster day Thursday — the family earlier in the day had heard rumors, which authorities knocked down, that the teen might have been found in a different part of the state.
“And I just shut myself totally down. I thought today was going to be the day, and then I find out two hours later that she’s found and I just cannot believe this,” Allard told WCCO reporter Mary McGuire.
Jayme’s relatives are breathing sighs of relief.
“I can’t thank everybody enough for not giving up on Jayme,” Smith, the godmother, told WCCO.
“Jayme: Aunt Jen can’t wait to give you that big hug and hold you tight,” Smith said, “because we’re not going to let you go.”
Jayme declared missing after parents found dead
Jayme was missing when police discovered her parents dead in their home near Barron on October 15.
Investigators say a mysterious 911 call led deputies to discover the bodies. The call was “pinged” to the Closs home. When the dispatcher called the number back, a voicemail greeting indicated the phone belonged to Denise Closs. The log does not indicate who made the 911 call, but the dispatcher heard yelling in the background.
Police arrived to find the door kicked in, but no one was there. Investigators said they believed Jayme was at home during the shooting.
“Finally, we want to especially thank the family for their support and patience while this case was ongoing. We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Thousands of people joined search parties for months as investigators received thousands of tips. The FBI offered a cash reward for information on Jayme’s whereabouts, and hunters in the area were urged to be on the lookout for clues.
In December, the Barron County Clerk of Courts Office dedicated its Christmas tree to Jayme. The decorations spelled out her name in big, glittery letters, and they included green bulbs and ribbons. The color green is often used to raise awareness of missing children.
In the days after Jayme’s disappearance, law enforcement officials assured the public they believed she was alive and in danger.
Barron, a town of less than 3 square miles, has a population of about 3,300, according to US Census figures. It is about a one-hour, 50-minute drive from Minneapolis, and is about 50 minutes from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.