On October 15, 2018, 13-year-old Jayme Closs was reported missing after her parents were discovered shot to death in Barron, Wisconsin. Three months later, on January 10, she approached a woman walking her dog in Gordon, a town 70 miles away, and asked for help. According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, a suspect has been taken into custody.
In a press conference held on Friday, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald identified the man as Jake Thomas Patterson, the Chicago Tribune reports. He has been charged with murdering Jayme’s parents, Denise and James Closs, as well as with kidnapping Jayme. Police said she was his “only target,” though they don’t believe he had any connection to her family.
The Star Tribune reports that Jayme had escaped from where she had been held captive; the dog-walker and a neighbor, who lived in Eau Claire Acres, a small enclave of cabins that are mostly unoccupied during the winter months, called the police for her. According to the Star Tribune, the area is heavily forested and sparsely populated. Peter and Kristin Kasinskas, who made the 911 call, said they believe Jayme had been in the area for most of the three months she had been missing.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost,” Peter Kasinskas told the Star Tribune. When she was found, Jayme was reportedly malnourished and dirty, with matted hair and a “flat” demeanor. “It was scary and awesome at the same time. My jaw just went to the floor,” he added.
According to CBS affiliate WCCO-4, Jayme’s aunt said that the teen is currently in the hospital. “There was rumors earlier today, and I prayed and prayed that they were true,” Sue Allard added. “And I just shut myself totally down. I thought today was going to be the day, and then I find out two hours later that she’s found and I just cannot believe this.”
In October, Jayme was pronounced missing and in danger, CNN reported. According to authorities, her parents’ bodies were discovered following a 911 call that was placed around 1 a.m. on October 15. The call was later traced back to the cell phone of Denise Closs, 46, who was found alongside her husband James Closs, 56. Their deaths have since been ruled homicides; police believed Jayme was home at the time of the attack.
According to News8000, a man was charged with breaking into the Closs’ home and stealing a number of possessions, including a pair of Jayme’s underwear; he was reportedly cleared of involvement with her disappearance.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately identify Patterson; the Star Tribune noted he is 21 years old. According to the Chicago Tribune, Patterson lived in Eau Claire Acres, but the Kasinskas family did not realize he was home during the three months he allegedly held Jayme captive.
Kristin Kasinskas told the AP that when a neighbor brought Jayme to her, she “said that this person’s name was Jake Patterson, ‘he killed my parents and took me.’ She did not talk about why or how. She said she did not know him.” Kasinskas remembers teaching Patterson in a middle school science class; “I don’t really remember a ton about him,” she added, per the Chicago Tribune.
This story has been updated throughout.