‘Jayme is the hero’ sher­iff says of Wis­con­sin girl who es­caped cap­tor

Stabroek News - - World News -

(Reuters) - A 13-yearold girl’s es­cape from a ru­ral home, where she was held cap­tive for three months by a 21year-old Wis­con­sin man charged with mur­der­ing her par­ents, helped break the case and she should be treated as a hero, the lo­cal sher­iff said on

Fri­day.

Thou­sands of vol­un­teers and hun­dreds of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers had searched around the clock around the small town of Bar­ron af­ter Jayme Closs’ par­ents were found shot dead in their home, the front door open and the girl gone.

Re­ly­ing on what Bar­ron County Sher­iff Chris Fitzger­ald called “the will of a kid to sur­vive,” a di­sheveled Closs es­caped a house in the tiny town of Gor­don where she had been held cap­tive, about 60 miles (100 km) north of Bar­ron. She was found by a woman walk­ing her dog on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

“Jayme is the hero in this case. She’s the one who helped us break this case,” Fitzger­ald told re­porters on Fri­day.

Both the woman and the neigh­bor rec­og­nized the teen im­me­di­ately on Thurs­day due to the enor­mous pub­lic cam­paign fol­low­ing her dis­ap­pear­ance, Fitzger­ald said.

Less than 15 min­utes later, Jake Pat­ter­son, 21, was in cus­tody af­ter po­lice pulled over his ve­hi­cle, based on Closs’ de­scrip­tion. “The sus­pect was out look­ing for her when law en­force­ment made con­tact with him,” Fitzger­ald told a news con­fer­ence, adding po­lice were not seek­ing any other sus­pects in the case at this time.

Pat­ter­son, an un­em­ployed res­i­dent of Gor­don, was charged on Fri­day with kid­nap­ping and with mur­der­ing James and Denise Closs with a shot­gun. Their bod­ies were dis­cov­ered on Oct. 15.

“The sus­pect had spe­cific in­ten­tions to kid­nap Jayme and went to great lengths to pre­pare to take her,” said Fitzger­ald.

Pat­ter­son was be­ing held in the Bar­ron County jail, and it was not yet clear whether he had a lawyer. He faces an ini­tial court hear­ing on Mon­day.

More than 200 law en­force­ment of­fi­cials were on the ground day and night fol­low­ing Closs’ dis­ap­pear­ance, sift­ing through thou­sands of tips but find­ing lit­tle to go on.

The search stretched across corn­fields and wooded ar­eas and drew 1,500 vol­un­teers — nearly half as many peo­ple as the en­tire 3,400-per­son pop­u­la­tion of Bar­ron, which sits about 90 miles (145 km) north­east of Min­neapo­lis.

Hun­dreds of lo­cals had at­tended a Christ­mas tree­l­ight­ing cer­e­mony at Riverview Mid­dle School, which Closs at­tended, in her honor last month. The “tree of hope” was dec­o­rated with mes­sages and lighted in blue, Closs’ fa­vorite color, and green to sym­bol­ize miss­ing child aware­ness, the Star Tri­bune re­ported.

Closs was speak­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors yes­ter­day af­ter spend­ing a night in the hos­pi­tal for eval­u­a­tion. Author­i­ties did not of­fer any de­tails about the con­di­tions of her cap­tiv­ity or how she had man­aged to es­cape.

She was due to be re­united with her ex­tended fam­ily later yes­ter­day.

“I just cried ... lots of happy tears,” Jen Smith, the girl’s aunt, told ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” pro­gram. Author­i­ties have re­leased few de­tails about Pat­ter­son, who has no pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record in Wis­con­sin, say­ing they were un­sure whether he had known Closs.

Jayme Closs

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