Wis. teen’s es­cape sets off joy, re­lief

Ques­tions abound in girl’s kid­nap­ping, par­ents’ killing

The Detroit News - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEFF BAENEN AND GRETCHEN EHLKE As­so­ci­ated Press

Bar­ron, Wis. — A 21-year-old man killed a Wis­con­sin cou­ple in a baf­fling scheme to kid­nap their teenage daugh­ter, then held the girl cap­tive for three months be­fore she nar­rowly man­aged to es­cape and reach safety as he drove around look­ing for her, au­thor­i­ties said.

Jayme Closs, 13, was skinny, di­sheveled and wear­ing shoes too big for her when she ap­proached a stranger and pleaded for help Thurs­day near the small, iso­lated north woods town of Gor­don, where po­lice said she was be­ing held by Jake Thomas Pat­ter­son.

Within min­utes, Pat­ter­son was pulled over and jailed on kid­nap­ping and homi­cide charges for what au­thor­i­ties said was his metic­u­lously planned shot­gun at­tack at the girl’s home in Oc­to­ber.

The news that Jayme was safe set off joy and re­lief 60 miles away in her home­town of Bar­ron, pop­u­la­tion 3,300, end­ing an all-out search that gripped the state, with many peo­ple fear­ing the worst the longer she was miss­ing.

“My legs started to shake. It was awe­some. The stress, the re­lief — it was awe­some,” Bar­ron County Sher­iff Chris Fitzger­ald said, de­scrib­ing the mo­ment he learned Jayme had been found.

Jayme told one of the neigh­bors in Gor­don who took her in that she had walked away from a cabin where she had been held cap­tive.

“She said that this per­son’s name was Jake Pat­ter­son, ‘he killed my par­ents and took me,’ ” said an­other neigh­bor, Kristin Kasinskas. “She did not talk about why or how. She said she did not know him.”

The sher­iff said in­ves­ti­ga­tors are try­ing to fig­ure out what hap­pened to Jayme dur­ing her cap­tiv­ity and why she was seized, and gave no de­tails on how she es­caped ex­cept to say Pat­ter­son was not home at the time. He said there is no ev­i­dence Pat­ter­son knew Jayme or her fam­ily or had been in con­tact with her on so­cial me­dia.

“I know all of you are search­ing for the an­swer why any of this hap­pened,” Fitzger­ald said. “Be­lieve me, so are we.”

The sher­iff said that he did not know if Jayme had been phys­i­cally abused but that she was hos­pi­tal­ized overnight for ob­ser­va­tion and re­leased. In­ves­ti­ga­tors were still in­ter­view­ing her, and she was “do­ing as well as cir­cum­stances al­low,” he said.

Kasinskas called 911 to re­port the girl had been found after an­other neigh­bor out walk­ing her dog en­coun­tered Jayme and brought her to Kasinskas’ house. Pat­ter­son was ap­par­ently out look­ing for her when he was stopped by a sher­iff ’s deputy based on a de­scrip­tion of his vehicle from Jayme, au­thor­i­ties said.

He was sched­uled for an ini­tial court ap­pear­ance Mon­day. It was not im­me­di­ately known whether the un­em­ployed Pat­ter­son had an at­tor­ney.

Jayme’s grand­fa­ther, Robert Naiberg, said he had been pray­ing

for months for the call he re­ceived about his grand­daugh­ter.

“I thought, ‘Good for her she es­caped,’ ” he said.

Jayme dis­ap­peared from her home near Bar­ron after some­one blasted his way in and shot her par­ents, James and Denise Closs, on Oct. 15. The sher­iff said in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve Pat­ter­son killed them in order to abduct the girl.

Pat­ter­son took such mea­sures as shav­ing his head be­fore­hand to avoid leav­ing ev­i­dence at the scene, the sher­iff said. A shot­gun sim­i­lar to the one used was re­cov­ered from the home where Jayme was be­lieved held, ac­cord­ing to Fitzger­ald.

Prop­erty records show that the cabin be­longed to Pat­ter­son’s father at the time of Jayme’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Pat­ter­son worked for one day in 2016 at the same Jen­nie-O tur­key plant in Bar­ron as Jayme’s par­ents, Jen­nie-O Tur­key Store Pres­i­dent Steve Lykken said. Pat­ter­son quit, say­ing he was mov­ing from the area, Lykken said. But the sher­iff said it did not ap­pear Pat­ter­son in­ter­acted with the cou­ple dur­ing his brief time there.

He had no crim­i­nal record, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff. He grad­u­ated in 2015 from North­wood

High School, where he was on the quiz bowl team and was a good stu­dent with a “great group of friends,” said Dis­trict Su­per­in­ten­dent Jean Serum.

Kasinskas said she taught Pat­ter­son sci­ence in mid­dle school, but added: “I don’t re­ally re­mem­ber a ton about him.”

“He seemed like a quiet kid,” she said. “I don’t re­call any­thing that would have ex­plained this, by any means.”

The woman who first spot­ted Jayme on Thurs­day, Jeanne Nut­ter, said she was walk­ing her dog along a ru­ral road when a girl called out to her, grabbed her and re­vealed her name.

“She just yelled, ‘Please help me! I don’t know where I am! I’m lost!’ ” Nut­ter, a so­cial worker who spent years work­ing in child pro­tec­tion, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Nut­ter took her to the home of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas. Jayme was quiet, her emo­tions “pretty flat,” Peter Kasinskas said. From what she told them, they be­lieved she was in Gor­don, a log­ging town of about 650 peo­ple, for most of the time she was miss­ing.

Over the past few months, de­tec­tives pur­sued thou­sands of tips, nu­mer­ous searches.

Jean Pieri / AP

Bar­ron County Sher­iff Chris Fitzger­ald holds the book­ing photo of Jake Thomas Pat­ter­son, who al­legedly kid­napped Jayme Closs.

Jayme

Pho­tos by Jeff Baenen / AP

Nu­mer­ous searches were con­ducted for Jayme Closs, in­clud­ing this one in Oc­to­ber.

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