A 21-year-old man has been arrested and charged with the kidnapping of 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was found safe Thursday afternoon in northwest Wisconsin. He was also charged with the Oct. 15 murder of her parents.
The suspect, an unemployed man identified as Jake Thomas Patterson, lived in Gordon, Wisconsin, where Closs was found, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said at a press conference Friday. Investigators believe he was only targeting Jayme in his alleged crimes and that he had no previous contact with the family, Fitzgerald said. Authorities also said that Patterson had “planned his actions” and that they were not looking for any other suspects. They do not yet know how he found or why he focused on Jayme, authorities said.
The news brought relief to the community of Barron, where Jayme had lived nearby with her parents James, 56, and Denise, 46, and shocked the rural town of Gordon, about 70 miles north, where Jayme surfaced, dirty and malnourished.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Jayme was rescued after she reportedly escaped and found a woman who had been walking her dog. That woman, identified by USA Today as a social worker named Jeanne Nutter, said she saw Jayme walking toward her, yelling for help. Nutter, unsure of where the potential abductor could be and determined to get Jayme to a safe place, took her to a neighbor’s home. “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!” Nutter told the neighbor, a local teacher. Jayme, as the neighbor described her to the the Star-Tribune, was “a skinny, dirty girl with matted hair, wearing shoes too big for her feet.”
The neighbor told the Star-Tribune that Jayme appeared “pretty flat” emotionally and that she said she did not know where she was. She said from the conversation she believed Jayme had been in Gordon for most of her disappearance. According to the authorities, Jayme gave investigators a description of Patterson’s vehicle, and they were quickly able find and seize him.
Jayme disappeared on Oct. 15, when sheriff’s deputies arrived at her family’s home to find the door kicked in and both of her parents shot to death. In the months that followed, authorities pursued thousands of tips, and at one point, 2,000 volunteers gathered to conduct a search of rural Barron County, according to the Associated Press.
After police arrived, Jayme was taken to a hospital, according to the Star-Tribune, and reunited with family. Nutter told USA Today that while Jayme had appeared to be in shock, she otherwise looked physically unharmed.
Update, Jan. 11, 2019 at 1:45 p.m.: This post has been updated with information about the suspect from a Friday press conference.