A 13-year-old Wisconsin girl missing since her parents were discovered shot dead in their home three months ago has been found, malnourished and dirty, after fleeing her captor in a remote community.
Jayme Closs escaped a remote house on Thursday, fleeing on foot to be found by a woman who was walking her dog. The 13-year-old was taken into police custody after the woman stopped at a nearby home to call police.
Investigators named the suspect as Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, and said he was being charged with two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. Police said Patterson planned his actions and took steps to keep himself from being seen.
Patterson was found down the road from the house from which Jayme escaped and was arrested based on a description of his vehicle the teenager was able to provide, police said.
Barron county sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said investigators were still trying to determine what Jayme had experienced and establish why Patterson appeared to have been determined to abduct her.
“The will of a kid to survive – it’s unthinkable,” said Fitzgerald, who was emotional after spending 88 days trying to find the teenager.
Fitzgerald said that as of Friday morning, there was no indication Patterson had a relationship with the family, nor was there evidence he had social media contact with Jayme. He said Patterson did have a tie to Jayme’s home town, Barron, but would not elaborate on the connection.
“This case remains very active as we stand before you today,” said Fitzgerald.
Despite receiving thousands of tips concerning Jayme’s disappearance, police said the search was made more difficult by steps the suspect took to keep himself from being seen by police and the public.
“It’s a remote area, there isn’t a lot of houses in that area,” Fitzgerald said. “He not only concealed his identity from us, it appears he concealed her from other people, also his friends.”
Investigators questioned Patterson, who is unemployed and has no criminal history locally or in the state of Wisconsin, on Friday morning. The house in which Jayme had most recently been held was searched.
Investigators said it was not yet clear if Jayme had been in the same house for the entire three months of her disappearance or if she was abused by her captor.
The local district attorney’s office said it planned to issue a criminal complaint next week.
Police said Jayme had been medically cleared to reunite with her family and would be reunited with them after being questioned by investigators on Friday morning.
Sue Allard, Jayme’s aunt, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune she could barely express her joy after hearing the news on Thursday night.
“Praise the Lord,” Allard said, between sobs. “It’s the news we’ve been waiting on for three months. I can’t wait to get my arms around her. I just can’t wait.”
Police said they were not looking for additional suspects and that no one else had been found in the residence from which Jayme escaped.
“It is an incredible day,” said Justin Tolomeo, FBI special agent in charge of Milwaukee.
Tolomeo said the case had been difficult because of the steps the suspect took to evade law enforcement, but the teenager had overcome those obstacles to stage her own escape.
“It was Jayme who made the break,” he said.