Gordon, WI – After being held against her will for 88 days, 13-year-old Jayme Closs managed to escape from the kidnapper accused of murdering her parents and sought out help from a passing dog walker.
“Jayme is safe,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald confirmed during an emotional press conference on Friday morning. “That is the will of a kid to survive.”
Her alleged captor, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, has been arrested on suspicion of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said.
Investigators from multiple local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are currently piecing together what has transpired in the 88 days since she was kidnapped from her home by the man suspected of killing her parents.
Jayme had been gone since Oct. 15, 2018, when police responded to an anonymous 911 call from her Barron home and arrived to find her parents, James and Denise Closs, dead, according to WJW.
Thirteen-year-old Jayme was nowhere to be found.
Sheriff Fitzgerald has previously said Jayme was not a suspect in her parents’ murders, and that investigators did not believe that she ran away.
"I'm telling you, Jayme is missing and endangered," he told reporters at the time, according to WJW.
Sheriff Fitzgerald had asked for the public’s help as law enforcement across the country engaged in a nationwide manhunt that stretched on for months.
At approximately 4:43 p.m. on Thursday, in a rural community of about 30 cabins located roughly an hour away from the Closs home, the search came to an end.
A woman was out walking her dog when a filthy girl with matted hair and shoes too big for her feet approached her, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
“[She] came up to me and said she wanted help,” Jeanne Nutter recounted.
"I was terrified, but I didn't want to show her that," said Nutter, a social worker who previously worked in child protection, according to the Associated Press. "She just yelled please help me I don't know where I am. I'm lost."
Nutter said she had seen photos of Jayme and knew she was missing, and that she was fairly certain that the girl in the fliers and posters was the same girl standing before her, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Jayme confirmed her identity, and the two immediately headed for a nearby residence and began pounding on the door.
"My only thought was to get her to a safe place," Nutter said, according to The Associated Press.
"This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!" Nutter yelled to the people inside.
The homeowner, Peter Kasinskas, said he was in disbelief when he opened the door.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now,” Peter told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It was like I was seeing a ghost. My jaw just went to the floor.”
He and his wife, Kristin, ushered Jayme and the woman into their home and tried to make her comfortable while they waited for police to arrive, they said.
Peter said Jayme was understandably “pretty flat,” and that she declined their offers for food and water.
She did not know what town she was in, and the couple said that the information she gave them led them to believe she had probably been in the area for the bulk of the time she was missing.
Sheriff Dalbec said his deputies responded to the Kasinskas’ home “en masse,” and learned that the teen had managed to get away from her kidnapper.
Jayme was able to provide deputies with a description of one of Patterson’s vehicles, which they located within minutes, Sheriff Dalbec said.
Patterson was taken into custody without further incident.
Jayme was transported to a local hospital, where she was examined and held overnight for observation, he said.
She has been medically cleared, and authorities are beginning the process of reunifying her with her family members, Sheriff Fitzgerald explained.
Police said that Patterson has no criminal history, and that the town of Gordon was not on their “radar” during the search for the missing teen.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Justin Tolomeo said they were in need of a “break” in the case.
“It was Jayme herself who gave us that break,” SAC Tolomeo said.
Barron Area School District Superintendent Diane Tremblay said that the community has been reeling since Jayme’s disappearance, that that they were elated to learn she is now safe.
“Most importantly, we want to thank Jayme for being so courageous, and for achieving an opportunity to find her way back to us. What an extraordinary young lady,” Tremblay said. “We missed you, and we are so thankful you are home.”
According resident Daphne Ronning, who lives in the Eau Claire Acres neighborhood where Jayme was found, Patterson moved into the area with his parents and brother about 15 years ago, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Patterson’s parents have since moved to another house, but he and his brother still lived at the residence, Ronning said.
"We had some problems with them when they were teenagers,” she recalled. “We caught them siphoning gas… My husband talked with them and there was never anything else."
Sheriff Fitzgerald said that investigators do not believe that anyone but Patterson was involved in the double homicide or Jayme’s kidnapping, and said that Jayme was Patterson’s target.
According to District Attorney Brian Wright, it does not appear that Patterson had any contact with the Closs family prior to his attack.
"I can tell you the suspect planned his actions and took many pro-active steps to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public," Wright said.
"We want to thank the Douglas Co Sheriff’s Department and agencies assisting them tonight," Sheriff Fitzgerald wrote in a statement Thursday night. "We also want to thank all the Law Enforcement agencies across the state and county that have assisted us in this case. We also could not have endured this case without the support of the public and I want to thank them for all the support and help."
"Finally we want to especially thank the family for their support and patience while this case was ongoing," the sheriff added. "We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!"
Additional details regarding the ongoing investigation are expected to be released during a press conference scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m., Sheriff Fitzgerald said.