CHICAGO (CBS) — A 21-year-old man has been charged with murder and kidnapping, in connection with the abduction of 13-year-old Jayme Closs, and the slayings of her parents in Barron, Wis., in October.
Jayme escaped from the alleged kidnapper’s home in rural Gordon, Wis., on Thursday, and came across a woman walking her dog, who notified authorities. Police later tracked down 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, based on Jayme’s description of her kidnapper’s car.
Police said Patterson was not at home when Jayme escaped. He appeared to be looking for Jayme in his vehicle when police made contact with him.
“The will of a kid to survive, it’s unthinkable,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said. “It’s amazing, the will of that 13-year-old girl, to survive and escape.”
Patterson was being held in the Barron County Jail, facing two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and one count of kidnapping.
Fitzgerald said investigators do not believe Patterson had any prior contact with the family before kidnapping Jayme and killing her parents. Investigators said they do not yet know why Patterson targeted Jayme, and are still trying to determine if Jayme and Patterson knew each other before the kidnapping.
“I don’t know that. We’re waiting for that,” Fitzgerald said.
Police said Jayme was at home when her parents were killed on Oct. 15, 2018.
An inaudible 911 call led police to Jayme’s home in Barron on Oct. 15. When police arrived, they saw the door was kicked in, and found Jayme’s parents, 56-year-old James and 46-year-old Denise, dead inside with gunshot wounds. Jayme was nowhere to be found, and police had been searching for her ever since.
Police said Jayme was the only target of the crime, and that Patterson planned the attack, and took steps to cover up the kidnapping.
“I can tell you the subject planned his actions and took many proactive steps to conceal his identity from law enforcement and general public,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said Jayme escaped from Patterson’s home in Gordon on Thursday afternoon, and came across a woman walking her dog, and told her who she was. The woman immediately recognized Jayme, and then told a neighbor to call 911.
Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene, and put Jayme “in safe keeping,” Douglas County Sheriff Thomas Dalbec said. Jayme was taken to the hospital, and was held overnight for observation. Fitzgerald said she was medically cleared and was speaking with investigators.
Shortly after police brought Jayme to safety, a Douglas County Sheriff’s patrol sergeant located Patterson’s car, based on Jayme’s description of her kidnapper’s vehicle, and took Patterson into custody.
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Just hours before Jayme was found in Gordon, authorities received a tip that she had been found in Walworth County, which turned out to be false.
“In cases like this, we often need a big break. It was Jayme herself who gave us that break,” said FBI special agent Justin Tolomeo, who assisted in the investigation of Jayme’s disappearance.
Patterson was questioned, and brought back to Barron County. Fitzgerald said Patterson is unemployed, and had no criminal history in Wisconsin. Police have no other suspects in the case.
Police said they found several weapons at Patterson’s home, including a shotgun they believe could be the weapon that was used to kill Jayme’s parents.
Police said they do not know exactly how Jayme got away from Patterson’s home.
“I just know that she did escape from the home, and did find help,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said it appeared Patterson and Jayme were in his home the entire time after he kidnapped her.
“We don’t know that. It appears that way, but we don’t know. We can’t confirm that completely yet,” he said.
Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright said his office would file a formal criminal complaint against Patterson by next week.
Meantime, police said Jayme will be questioned before she is reunited with her family. She has been placed with her aunt temporarily.
“We hope to have her back here in Barron County this morning or early afternoon,” Fitzgerald said.
Jayme’s family said they never gave up hope, even going as far as to buy Christmas presents for her while she was missing. Now they say she’ll have a chance to open those gifts, as her school district in Barron County prepares to welcome her back.
“We want to thank Jayme for being so courageous, and for achieving an opportunity to find her way back to us. What an extraordinary young lady,” Barron Area School District Administrator Diane Tremblay said.