For nearly three months, the October 15th disappearance of 13-year-old Jayme Closs, and the murders of her parents, James and Denise, at their Barron, Wisconsin home befuddled local authorities and the FBI. Despite offering a $50,000 reward for information, the Barron County Sheriff’s Department had no suspects and few leads — until yesterday afternoon, when police in Douglas County alerted them that Jayme had been found safe in Gordon, about 70 miles north of Barron. At a news conference on Friday morning, Wisconsin authorities confirmed that the teenager had escaped from a “remote house” where she was being held, sought help from the first person she encountered, and provided responding officers with information about her captor that led to the apprehension of 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson just 10 minutes later.
“In cases like (these), we need a break (to crack it),” FBI Special Agent Justin Tolomeo said at the press conference. “Jayme herself gave us that break … this is all the outcome we’d like to have.”
According to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, Patterson is facing two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping, and police do not believe anyone else was involved. While Fitzgerald praised law enforcement for their efforts to solve the case, he also acknowledged that Patterson and the town of Gordon were “not on our radar” during the investigation.
“The subject planned his actions and went to great lengths to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public,” Fitzgerald said, without elaborating further. “Jayme was taken against her will. We do believe Jayme was the only target.”
Authorities do not believe that Patterson knew or had any contact with James or Denise Closs prior to October 15th, when they were fatally shot inside their home. A 911 call was placed from inside the house, but no one spoke, and the dispatcher could only hear background noises. By the time police arrived, both parents were dead and Jayme was gone. It’s not clear if Jayme knew Patterson, but Fitzgerald said the suspect “has a tie” to Barron.
Jayme reportedly escaped yesterday afternoon after Patterson left the home where she was being held. Jeanne Nutter was walking her dog in a housing development in Gordon, when, according to CNN, she saw a “skinny girl with unkempt hair and oversized shoes” calling for help.
“I went to her and she just sort of grabbed onto me and she told me who she was,” Nutter, a social worker, said. “My goal was to get her someplace safe, to call 911. I didn’t know where the perpetrator of this was and she wasn’t sure either, so I just went to a couple places trying to find people.”
Peter and Kristin Kasinskas were home when they heard an urgent knocking at their front door, and stunned to discover who was on the other side.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now,” Peter Kasinskas told the Star-Tribune. “It was like I was seeing a ghost.”
“She said to us that this person killed my parents and took me,” Kristin Kasinskas told CNN. “She said that this person usually hides her or hides her when others are near or when he has to leave the household. She did not go into detail about how she got out of the house or anything like that.”
Jayme has given an initial interview to authorities, and after being hospitalized for observation overnight, she’s set to be reunited with family later today. Sheriff Fitzgerald had no information on what transpired during the three months that Jayme was held captive, but another press conference is scheduled for this afternoon at 4 pm.