In what must have been a risky and terrifying opportunity to escape her kidnapper after three months of hell in a cabin in rural Wisconsin, 13-year-old Jayme Closs managed to break free, find help and is now recovering at home with relatives.
Looking frail, dishevelled with matted hair and wearing shoes too big for her, Jayme spotted a woman, Jeanne Nutter, walking her dog on a nearby snow-covered street on Thursday afternoon. Jayme yelled out: “Please help me! I don’t know where I am! I’m lost!”
Ms Nutter recognised Jayme immediately due to the enormous public campaign to find her after she disappeared from her home town of Gordon, some 120 kilometres away, on October 15 after her parents James and Denise were shot dead and the front door was left open.
“I just kept telling myself ‘Don’t let her know I’m scared, just talk calmly, walk calmly’,” she told reporters.
The Good Samaritan rushed to the front door of local residents Peter and Kristin Kasinskas, who also recognised the missing girl saying, “This is Jayme Closs!”, according to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “Call 911!”
Jayme told them she had been held captive in a cabin and didn’t know where she was or anything about Gordon.
“She said that this person’s name was Jake Patterson, ‘He killed my parents and took me’,” Ms Kasinskas said.
“She did not talk about why or how. She said she did not know him.”
Jayme’s grandfather Robert Naiberg said in a telephone interview on Saturday that no one in the family knew Patterson.
“He didn’t know Jayme. He didn’t know [parents] Denise or Jim,” Naiberg said.
“[Jayme] don’t know him from Adam. But he knew what he was doing. We don’t know if he was stalking her or what. Did he see her somewhere?”
Jayme is now speaking to investigators, but it is not clear what the conditions were like inside the cabin, what she was fed, whether she was assaulted and how she managed to escape.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald says Jayme is the hero in this case, naming her kidnapper as 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson who, less than 15 minutes later, was in custody after police pulled over his car based on Closs’s description.
“Jayme is the hero in this case. She’s the one who helped us break this case,” Sheriff Fitzgerald told a news conference on Saturday (AEDT).
“The suspect was out looking for her when law enforcement made contact with him,” he said.
He said Patterson worked for just two days at a local turkey factory, where both Jayme’s parents worked, but he was unable to provide details on how he knew about her or whether there was a “social media connection”.
FBI officers were currently combing every room of the cabin to collect evidence while Jayme spent just 24 hours in hospital before being discharged.
Special agent in charge of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division Justin Tolomeo said: “We needed a break in this case.”
“It was Jayme herself who gave us that break.”
Watch Barron County Sheriff’s Office press conference in full:
BREAKING NEWS – Live news conference on Jayme Closs case.
Posted by WEAU 13 News on Friday, January 11, 2019
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from different agencies worked around the clock to find Jayme, sifting through thousands of tips but finding nothing.
Almost 1500 volunteers, roughly half the population of Barron (3400), located 145 kilometres north-east of Minneapolis, combed cornfields and wooded areas refusing to give up the search for Jayme.
Patterson, a resident of Gordon, was charged on Friday with allegedly kidnapping and murdering James and Denise Closs with a shotgun.
“The suspect had specific intentions to kidnap Jayme and went to great lengths to prepare to take her,” said Sheriff Fitzgerald.
“I know all of you are searching for the answer why any of this happened,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.
“Believe me, so are we.”
Jayme’s aunt and godmother, Jennifer Smith, told Good Morning America she just cried “lots of happy tears” after hearing the news her niece had been located.
She has since shared on social media the first photo of herself with Jayme and her dog, Molly, – a picture of the duo being reunited at the hospital on Saturday morning (AEDT), saying: “We said we’d never give up, and we didn’t.”
About 350 people under the age of 21 are kidnapped by strangers in the United States each year, according to FBI data.
Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped for nine months in 2002, posted on her Instagram account she was thrilled Jayme had survived her horrific ordeal, describing her as a “brave, strong and powerful survivor”.
View this post on Instagram
What a miracle!!! Jayme Closs has been found!!!! I’m so thrilled to hear the news. What has been such a heart wrenching tragedy finally has some happiness in the story. I’m praying for Jayme and all her family that they can have a joyous reunion and as the rest of the country celebrates alongside this happy occasion we all are mindful to give the family their space and privacy on their road to finding a new sense of normal and moving forward. I have no doubt Jayme and her family will forever appreciate the efforts and prayers of the many thousands of people who contributed and kept them in their thoughts and prayers! I hope we may all continue to support and embrace Jayme as she reclaims her life and comes to terms with the reality of her situation. What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!! No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED and whatever other details may surface the most important will still remain that she is alive. May god bless you Jayme Closs and may we all continue to search for every missing child. #miracleshappen #novictimblaming #hope #findingnormal #survivor #strong #brave
A post shared by Elizabeth Smart (@elizabeth_smart_official) on
Patterson, 21, will appear on Monday in Barron County Circuit Court, where he will be charged with kidnapping and two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly gunning down Jayme’s parents in the early morning hours of October 15.