Thirteen-year-old Jayme Closs escaped the man who killed her parents and held her against her will in a remote part of Wisconsin, then gave police a description of his car that enabled deputies to quickly take him into custody, authorities said at an emotional news conference Friday.
Jake Thomas Patterson, a 21-year-old from Gordon, Wisconsin, was arrested Thursday - the same day Jayme was discovered walking down a road roughly 60 miles north of where she disappeared, authorities said. Jayme had been missing for 88 days, since her parents were fatally shot at their home outside Barron, Wisconsin, in October.
Patterson was being held on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting deaths of James and Denise Closs and one count of kidnapping, officials said. He is expected to appear in court Monday.
Authorities said Jayme gave deputies a description of Patterson's vehicle, enabling them to locate and arrest him minutes later.
"Jayme is the hero in this case, there's no question," Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
Police said Patterson was not home when Closs escaped and appeared to be "looking for her when law enforcement found him."
"That is the will of a kid to survive, it’s the unthinkable," Fitzgerald said. "It’s amazing the will of that 13-year-old girl to escape."
Fitzgerald said Jayme was inside her family's home when her parents were killed and that Patterson planned his actions, then "took many proactive steps" to hide Jayme and himself from law enforcement and the public.
Among those steps, Fitzgerald said, Patterson shaved his head to avoid leaving any hair behind.
The area where Jayme was allegedly held was remote and heavily wooded with few houses, officials said.
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"We also do not believe at this time that the suspect had any contact with the family. We do believe Jayme was the only target," Fitzgerald continued, adding that Patterson "had zero criminal history locally and zero criminal history in Wisconsin."
Closs’ discovery and Patterson’s arrest brought to an end what he said was a long and difficult search for the girl, whose disappearance, coupled with her parents’ death, rocked their community. She was discovered by a social worker walking her dog heard her cries for help and recognized her.
Jeanne Nutter told The Associated Press on Friday that she was walking her dog at around 4 p.m. along a rural road near Gordon when a disheveled teenage girl approached her and called out for help.
Jayme told Nutter her name and said she had walked away from a cabin where she'd been held captive, a cabin not far from Nutter's own home.
"I was terrified, but I didn't want to show her that," Nutter told the AP. "She just yelled please help me I don't know where I am. I'm lost."
Nutter said she didn't want to bring Jayme to her nearby home because it was too close to where she'd been found, and she didn't want them to be alone. She said: "My only thought was to get her to a safe place."
The two went elsewhere in the neighborhood, to the home of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas. Jayme was skinny and dirty, wearing shoes too big for her feet, but appeared outwardly OK, the neighbors said.
"I honestly still think I'm dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost," Peter Kasinskas told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "My jaw just went to the floor."
"We've seen her face a lot so I knew it was her the second she walked in the door," Kasinskas' wife Kristin said.
"She seemed kind of in shock and kind of timid but she did talk to us a little bit and she came in and sat down in our living room and was able to have a conversation with us," Kristin Kasinskas said in a phone interview on NBC's "Today" show.
"She didn't give us a ton of details," she added. "I'd asked her if she knew where Gordon, Wisconsin, was; she did not. She did not know where Gordon was and she did not know where she was at the time."
Kristin Kasinskas said Jayme told the couple the name of the person she believed had taken her.
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"I recognized the name when I was told it but not somebody I knew well by any means," Kristin Kasinskas said. "She kind of talked about being locked when this person had to leave but she did not go into any detail about how she got away."
"We kind of just talked with her, nothing too specific. She didn’t express like any fear," she continued. "She didn’t say she was afraid the person was coming after her but she did say that somebody took her, she did say that somebody killed her parents. She told us a vehicle to be watching out for."
Jayme went missing on Oct. 15 after police discovered someone had broken into the family's home outside Barron and fatally shot her parents, James and Denise Closs. Jayme was nowhere to be found, with the Barron County Sheriff's Department at the time describing her as likely abducted.
Kristin Kasinskas heard a knock on her door Thursday afternoon, according to the Star Tribune. It was Nutter, her neighbor, with Jayme alongside.
In the 20 minutes Jayme was in their home, Kristin and Peter Kasinskas tried to make her feel more comfortable, they said. They offered her water and food, but she declined both. Jayme was quiet, her emotions "pretty flat," Peter Kasinskas said.
Kristin Kasinskas told NBC affiliate KARE Jayme looked thinner than in her missing persons photograph, "a little unkempt, but okay over all."
Jayme told the couple 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.
Gordon lies about 40 miles south of Lake Superior and about 65 miles north of Barron, Jayme's hometown. The town is home to about 645 people in a heavily forested region where logging is the top industry.
Sue Allard, Jayme's aunt, told the Star Tribune that she could barely express her joy after learning the news Thursday night.
"Praise the Lord," Allard said between sobs. "It's the news we've been waiting on for three months. I can't wait to get my arms around her. I just can't wait."
"When you actually hear it, it’s just unbelievable," Jayme's uncle Jeff Closs said via phone interview. "We’re all just so grateful and happy. Hopefully she’s okay, we don’t really know what shape she’s in. We don’t really know a lot, all we know is she’s alive."
Detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches in the effort to find Jayme. Some tips led officials to recruit 2,000 volunteers for a massive ground search on Oct. 23 but it yielded no clues.
Fitzgerald said in November that he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Jayme, including the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, who was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, when she was 14 years old. She was rescued nine months later with the help of two witnesses who recognized her abductors from an "America's Most Wanted" episode.
"I have a gut feeling she's (Jayme's) still alive," Fitzgerald said at the time.
He was right.
"I figured that if they hadn’t found her by now, that the person that did this didn’t want her dead, so I had hope, every day," Jayme's aunt Kelly Englehardt said. "Every day there was hope."
"It's what we've prayed for every single day for the last 87 days," Englehardt added.
Barron Mayor Ron Fladten said Thursday night he was overjoyed at learning the news.
"There was a lot of discouragement because this took quite a while to play out," Fladten said. "A lot of people have been praying daily, as I have. It's just a great result we got tonight. It's unbelievable. It's like taking a big black cloud in the sky and getting rid of it and the sun comes out again."
He acknowledged that Jayme may not be the same person she was before she disappeared.
"I hope that she's in good shape," the mayor said. "She's no doubt been through just a terrible ordeal. I think everybody wishes her a good recovery and a happy life going into the future."
Jayme was hospitalized for observation overnight, authorities said, but was doing well and was cleared from the hospital by Friday morning.
She was undergoing a "reunification process" Friday, which includes medical and mental evaluations, as well as questioning by detectives and the FBI, and reuniting with family members.
Authorities said they hoped to have her back in Barron County by Friday morning or early afternoon.
The notification that Jayme had been found came just four hours after Fitzgerald had taken to Twitter to debunk a report that she had been found alive near Walworth County. Douglas County, where Jayme was found, is hundreds of miles northwest of Walworth County.