Jayme Closs, 13, was found disheveled and thin but alive Thursday after escaping from a home near the town of Gordon in northwestern Wisconsin, about forty miles southeast of Duluth, the Barron County, Wis., Sheriff’s Department announced late Thursday. Closs had disappeared Oct. 15 from her rural home near Barron, Wis., about 90 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, where her parents, James and Denise, were found fatally shot. She had not been seen or heard from since. One suspect, Jake Thomas Patterson, is being held for the abduction of Jayme and the murders of her parents.
This post will be updated with new information as we learn it.
Where was Jayme Closs found?
Closs was found at 4:43 p.m. Thursday in a cluster of about 30 homes originally built about 50 years ago as cabins near the Eau Claire River, about 9 miles east of Gordon, in Douglas County, and about 65 miles north of Barron. A suspect, Jake Thomas Patterson, was arrested minutes later.
According to Denny Kline, chairman of the Gordon town board, most of the homes in the area are unoccupied during the winter months. The land is hilly and heavily forested. Many homes are set back among trees. Late Thursday, investigators blocked all streets leading to a cabin in the 14100 block of S. Eau Claire Acres Circle as they combed for evidence.
How was Closs found?
Kristin Kasinskas, a teacher at the nearby Northwood School who lives on S. Eau Claire Acres Circle with her husband, Peter, and children, said that around 4 p.m., a neighbor walking a dog frantically knocked on their door. Standing with her was a skinny, dirty girl with matted hair, wearing shoes too big for her feet who had escaped from a nearby home.
"This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!" the neighbor said. In a phone interview with the Star Tribune late Thursday, Jeanne Nutter, the woman who found the girl, said Jayme "came up to me and said she wanted help."
In the 20 minutes Jayme was in the Kasinskas home, the couple offered her water and food. She declined both but did say she didn't know where she was or anything about Gordon. From what she told them, they believe she was there for most of her disappearance. Jayme was quiet, her emotions “pretty flat,” Peter Kasinskas said.
What do we know about the suspect?
Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, of Gordon, is being held at Barron County Jail. A criminal complaint charging Patterson with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of kidnapping was expected to be filed next week, the Barron County District Attorney’s Office said. Patterson was pulled over in a vehicle near where Closs was found and was arrested without resistance thanks to a vehicle description Closs provided, said Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec.
Patterson targeted Closs specifically and acted alone in abducting her against her will, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said, but he doesn't know if Jayme was abused by her captor and detectives are interviewing her about her ordeal. No other suspects were being sought, Fitzgerald said Friday afternoon. District Attorney Brian Wright said he does not believe Patterson, who is unemployed and appears to have no social media footprint, had any prior contact with the Closs family. Several guns were recovered from the home where Closs was held, including a shotgun "consistent" with the gun used in the attack at the Closs home, Fitzgerald said Friday afternoon.
Patterson worked at the same plant as James and Denise Closs for a single day nearly three years ago, according to the Associated Press. Steve Lykken, president of the Jennie-O Turkey Store in Barren, issued a statement Friday saying Patterson was hired one day but quit the next, explaining that he was moving away from the area.
Patterson has no criminal record and he "was not on our radar," Fitzgerald said. Patterson graduated from Northwood School District in Minong, Wis., about 10 miles south of Gordon, where the school superintendent described him as quiet and a one-time member of the school quiz bowl team. Patterson's parents divorced in 2007, court records show.
Records show that Patterson's father, Patrick, transferred the title of the cabin where Closs was apparently held to Superior Choice Credit Union on Oct. 23, eight days after the Oct. 15 attack at the Closs family's home, the Associated Press reported. The cabin was appraised at $79,300.
Patterson is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday, Fitzgerald said, when he is expected to be charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.
Where is Closs now?
She was taken to a hospital Thursday night for examination. Fitzgerald said Friday morning that Closs has been cleared from the hospital and is in the midst of a reunification process that includes mental evaluations, questioning by the FBI and detectives, and reunion with family. By Friday afternoon, Closs had been placed in the custody of an aunt, Fitzgerald said.
What happened before Closs disappeared?
On Oct. 15, the Barron County Sheriff’s Office received a frantic 911 call at 1 a.m. asking for help at a home just outside Barron, Wis. When they arrived, they found the bodies of James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46. Their daughter, 13-year-old Jayme was missing. She was last seen at a family function a day earlier. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald announced at an Oct. 15 news conference that Jayme “is missing from the residence” and her life “is considered endangered.” An Amber Alert was issued. A tip that Closs was spotted in a vehicle in Miami, Fla., was determined to not be credible.
Several intensive searches took place in the Barron area, but none yielded any clues, and for weeks Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald has been saying that authorities had no new leads. Read a fuller timeline of events here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.