Girl found alive three months after parents slain
Parents were killed during abduction
In a wooded outpost of northwestern Wisconsin, a slender girl with matted hair and shoes too big for her feet ran out in the freezing cold Thursday and sought help from a woman walking her dog.
“She just yelled, ‘Please help me. I don’t know where I am. I’m lost’,” said the woman, Jeanne Nutter, a social worker who spent years working in child protection.
Nutter rushed the young girl to a nearby home and knocked on the door.
“This is Jayme Closs!” she told the homeowner, Kristin Kasinskas. “Call 911!”
Soon after, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald announced that 13-year-old Jayme Closs — missing since October, when her parents were found slain in their home in Barron, Wisc. — had been located alive, ending a monthslong manhunt after she fled her captor.
“Jayme is safe!” Fitzgerald declared during a news conference Friday morning.
“It’s amazing, the will of that 13-year-old girl to survive and escape.”
Authorities said at a news conference that 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson had been arrested on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the killings of Jayme’s parents and one count of kidnapping.
Patterson, officials said, “planned his actions” and targeted the teen, and had subsequently taken “proactive steps to avoid detection” as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies looked for him and the missing girl.
Jayme went missing on October 15, when emergency services received a call at the family address in Barron from a mobile phone. Nobody spoke but a disturbance could be heard.
The front door had been kicked in and Jayme’s parents, James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, were found dead from gunshot wounds. There was no gun found at the scene, and police discovered no obvious motive.
Jayme was nowhere to be found, and police believed she had been kidnapped. An Amber Alert was issued.
“Based on our investigation thus far, we believe Jayme was in the home at the time of the homicides, and we believe she is still in danger,” Fitzgerald told reporters at the time. He added that “Here in Barron County, we all know that these things just don’t happen here.”
By the time Jayme approached the dog walker Thursday, most people who live in the area had undoubtedly seen the teen’s photo and heard about what had happened to her parents.
They also knew that she had mysteriously vanished from her home some 110 kilometres away.
Suddenly, she was standing on Kristin and Peter Kasinskas’s doorstep.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost,” Kasinskas’s husband, Peter, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It was scary and awesome at the same time. My jaw just went to the floor.”
Kristin Kasinskas said the girl told her a man “killed my parents and took me.” She said she didn’t know why she was targeted.
Kristin Kasinskas said she did not really know Patterson even though he lives in a remote cabin nearby. She said she taught him middle school science but only remembered that he was quiet.
She said she didn’t see Patterson during the months that Jayme was missing.
The Star Tribune reported that Jayme was invited inside and offered food and water, which she declined; instead, she played with the neighbours’ new puppy, Penny, and waited for police to arrive.
“We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfil that promise,” Fitzgerald wrote in a Facebook post. “From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!”
Fitzgerald said investigators did not believe Jayme had ever interacted with Patterson before they say he killed her parents and kidnapped her. He said he did not know if Jayme was abused by her captor and that detectives were interviewing her about her ordeal.
Jeff Closs, Jayme’s uncle, told NBC affiliate KARE on Thursday that the teen’s return was shocking.
“You’re not sure if she’s going to be found,” he said, “and when you actually hear it, it’s just unbelievable. We’re all just so grateful and happy.
Jayme Closs, 13, missing since October 15, was found alive in the town of Gordon, Wisc.
Jake Thomas Patterson