It was a mystery: Wisconsin parents Denise and James Closs, who worked at a local turkey plant, were found dead in a violent crime scene inside their rural home in Barron. Their 13-year-old daughter was missing, and the local sheriff said he had no leads.
However, on January 10, 2019, that all changed when authorities announced a stunning development. Jayme Closs was found alive and a suspect is in custody in the case of the once missing Barron, Wisconsin girl, who vanished in October 2018.
The suspect was named as Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, of Gordon, Wisconsin. The Barron County Sheriff says Jayme as taken against her will. You can read more about Patterson here. According to the sheriff, Jayme was “taken against her will” and was the “only target” of the suspect, whom he alleged “planned his actions and took many proactive steps to hide his identity….Thank you to Jayme for having the will to survive.” He said they don’t believe the suspect had ever met Jayme’s parents. He said it appeared the suspect went to the home with the intention of abducting Jayme.
The sheriff said the detectives are trying to figure out how Jayme became the suspect’s target and said he “does have a tie to Barron County” without revealing it. Her murdered parents were not his goal, he said, but he did not release many more details about how Jayme came to be on the radar of the suspect. He said it appears that Jayme was held in only one area, but that was still being investigated.
“Jayme is safe,” the Barron County Sheriff said on January 11, 2019, calling it “extremely emotional” for the family.
Although authorities have said little about the circumstances, interviews given to various news media outlets indicate that Jayme rushed out of the woods and up to a social worker who was walking her dog. The woman then took her to a neighbor’s house, where they called authorities. Her hair was matted, she was thin, and she’d reappeared almost like a “ghost,” according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
You can watch the Sheriff’s Department press conference live here:
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department says that the teen was found in the Town of Gordon, a community of 645 people. Jayme was found at 4:43 p.m. on January 10, and a suspect was taken into custody at 4:54 p.m. in the same township.
Authorities have released no information about the suspect, including the name, saying they will hold a 10 a.m. news conference on January 11, 2019.
The suspect is 21-years-old, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The newspaper interviewed a neighbor who described how a dog walker brought Jayme to her door, with matted hair, looking malnourished, and wearing too-big shoes. Jayme had approached the dog walker outside. She didn’t know where Gordon was. The Star Tribune reported that authorities were searching a cabin in the 14100 block of S. Eau Claire Acres Circle.
KTSP-TV reported through a source that Jayme “walked up to a woman walking her dog in Douglas County Thursday afternoon, screaming that a man had murdered her parents. Authorities have not yet confirmed that account. Gordon is a tiny community of just over 600 people located about an hour and 20 minutes from Barron, where Jayme lived. KTSP-TV is reporting that Jayme was taken to a hospital in Duluth, Wisconsin to be checked out.
The KTSP journalist gave more details of that in a live broadcast, saying that a teenage girl came running up to the dog walker, screaming for help, and saying she was in trouble. She said a man had murdered her parents. She wasn’t physically hurt. It was a rural, wildlife area. Authorities then quickly sent up a perimeter in the area.
The Daily Beast reported that Jeanne Nutter, a social worker, found Jayme as she walked her dog near a cabin that she and her husband Forrest own near Gordon, Wisconsin.
“The girl just came out of the woods,” Forrest Nutter told The Daily Beast. “She [Jeanne] kept her composure and took the girl to a safe place and called the sheriff’s department. She called and said they found Jayme and she was going to the hospital.” He added of his wife: “It was really very stressful for her and she is not up to talking about it.”
Forrest Nutter told Daily Beast that the suspect “is one of only a few people who live in Eau Claire Acres year-round.” The small community of Gordon is located just over an hour from Barron, the town where Jayme disappeared and where her parents were murdered. It’s a tiny community with just over 600 people located in Douglas County, the far northern reaches of the State of Wisconsin.
Another neighbor told Daily Beast that the family that owns the suspect cabin has had run ins with law enforcement over the years. Jeanne Nutter has worked in the School of Social Work as an adviser for an university in northern Wisconsin. Her Facebook page contains many photos of her with her dog and enjoying the Wisconsin outdoors.
Reporter Paul Blume, of Fox 9, wrote on Twitter: “Just off phone with Sheriff. Says #JaymeCloss found near Duluth. MN area. He was overcome with emotion. Tells (me) 1 suspect in custody. But believes more people involved. Family was told suspect name. But they don’t know the guy. Press briefing tomorrow 10am in Barron #findjayme.”
Authorities aren’t saying much about the circumstances. They haven’t named the suspect. Here is the full statement by the Barron County Sheriff’s Department:
Jayme Closs has been located
On Thursday evening the Barron County Sheriff’s Department was notified by the Douglas CO WI Sheriff’s Department that they had located Jayme Closs alive.
Shortly after this a suspect was taken into custody in regards to this case. We do not any other details at this time as this is a very fluid and active investigation. We will not be answering any questions or taking calls on this tonight.
We are planning a press briefing approximately 10 am tomorrow at the Sheriff’s Department in Barron. We are receiving support from the FBI and WI DCI agents as this investigation continues.
We want to thank the Douglas Co Sheriff’s Department and agencies assisting them tonight. We also want to thank all the Law Enforcement agencies across the state and county that have assisted us in this case. We also could not have endured this case without the support of the public and I want to thank them for all the support and help.
Finally we want to especially thank the family for their support and patience while this case was ongoing. We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!
This case has been very trying on the family so please respect their privacy and we reunite them later tonight.
Here is the statement:
Two and a half hours before that statement, the sheriff had written, “Jayme Closs has NOT been located-this is false news. There is a heavy law enforcement presence near Walworth Co but it is not related to Jayme Closs.” However, again, the statement about her being found alive was posted at about 8 p.m. – after the false news comment.
“Our deputies on scene. This is a tough scene. And they’re frustrated,” said Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald in a news conference shortly after Jayme was found. “…It’s just a different scene for us. We don’t have a suspect. We don’t have any leads right now. We’re working very diligently right now to get those leads. We’re working with other agencies.” He encouraged the public to share Jayme’s photo.
Here’s what was known in the case before Jayme was found alive, including what else authorities have said about whether there is a suspect (this story will be updated when authorities release information on the new development):
Who Are the Deceased Parents & How Did They Die?
On the evening of October 15, 2018, the Barron County Sheriff identified the deceased parents as James, 56 and Denise, 46. “They are husband and wife and the mother and father of Jayme, the missing 13 year old,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said in a statement that he posted to Facebook.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in rural western Wisconsin,” Fitzgerald said in an October 16, 2018 news conference. “We just don’t see this thankfully.”
On October 17, 2018, Fitzgerald released the cause of death for James and Denise Closs.
“Her parents died from gunshot wounds. That’s why we are ruling this a homicide. There was no gun found on the scene,” Fitzgerald said. “We believe Jayme was home based on the evidence in our case. Some of it from that 911 call and some of it is part of the active investigation, and we’re not able to comment on why we believe that.”
Asked whether the murders were targeted or random, he said: “I wish I was closer to that question….I don’t know that answer.”
The sheriff said October 15: “I can tell you there were two victims at the residence. Gunshots were involved. I am not ready to rule how they died at this time. The deceased are the mother and father of Jayme.” On October 16, he said autopsies were still being conducted, so he couldn’t release the cause of death yet.
A neighbor told WISN-TV that they heard gunshots. Later on Tuesday, the sheriff said there was a shooting at the scene.
CNN later obtained dispatch logs that revealed these additional details: the front door of the home was kicked in; James Closs had answered the door; multiple rounds were “spent”; no gun was found at the scene; and the family’s dog was alive inside the residence when deputies responded.
If you drive past the home in Barron, you can see that the front door to the family’s residence is now missing. A police and volunteer search of the ditches along the highway from Barron to Turtle Lake, Wis., didn’t turn up anything of value to the investigation.
Was Jayme Closs Sighted in Miami, Florida?
On the evening of October 15, 2018, the Miami Police Department tweeted that Jayme might have been seen in Miami, Florida, writing, “Endangered Juvenile, Jayne Closs from Barron, WI, may have been seen in the afternoon of 10/15/18, in the area of N.W. 27 Ave and 11 St. If it was her, she was in a black Ford Explorer with a possible WI plate of I60WER. If you have any information please call 911 immediately.” (Although Miami police gave the missing girl’s name as Jayne, and a few others have called her Jamie Closs, her name is spelled Jayme.) It’s not clear how Jayme could have made it so far so fast (Barron is located about 25 hours from Miami).
The Barron sheriff now says the report is not considered credible and indicated it was sent out without consulting with Wisconsin authorities.
Earlier, the Barron County Sheriff did say at an October 16 news conference that Wisconsin officials were researching the report.
News media released video of the possible sighting at a Miami gas station.
Local10 Miami gave additional details on the report: “Jayme Closs might have been seen at a gas station along Northwest 27th Avenue and Northwest 11th Street. The person who reported it said she was with two men in their 30s who were about 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9, weighing about 200 to 250 pounds and had beards. That same witness told police the black Ford Explorer they were in had a Wisconsin license plate tag of I60 WER.”
According to KARE 11, “The tipster reportedly told police two well-dressed, Middle Eastern men were inside the SUV. Officers say the tipster said the men were in their 30s, roughly 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9 and 200 to 250 pounds. They both reportedly had beards.”
Was Jayme Closs Abducted or Did She Run Away?
The Sheriff had indicated it’s possible that Jayme was abducted, but he stopped short of saying that for sure. The circumstances in which she was found would indicate that she was.
Later, shortly after the disappearance, he said authorities don’t know if Jayme is with a stranger, someone she knows or on her own. On Wednesday, he stressed he believes she could be alive.
“We don’t know how far she (Jayme) could have gone or if someone took her,” said Sheriff Fitzgerald. “We don’t know the answer to that. We just know we have a violent crime scene and a missing 13-year-old girl.”
In a press conference on October 16, 2018, Fitzgerald did not provide many additional details. He asked the public to continue providing tips, and to report anyone changing their behavior, such as changes to appearance or suddenly going out of town.
“Every second counts in this case,” said the sheriff. Asked if it was possible that Jayme Closs ran away, he said, “That would be part of the investigation.” He said police “redid” the crime scene with the state crime lab to make sure they didn’t miss anything.
“We’ve searched the area around the residence to make sure she didn’t just go outside and go to the woods,” the sheriff said on October 15. “We’ve used drones. We’ve used infrared. We’ve searched…the area around there. We’ve searched the school. We’ve met with the friends. We’re working very closely with the… middle school where she attends school. We have officers there today.”
Is There a Suspect?
Sheriff Fitzgerald says authorities have questioned multiple people because they follow up on every tip. However, they have not identified a suspect or person of interest, and they have not released any suspect description.
“We don’t have a suspect or a vehicle,” the sheriff said, explaining a delay in issuing an Amber Alert.
That of course changed on January 10, 2019, and the suspect is now in custody, authorities say. He was apprehended a few minutes after Jayme was discovered.
What Happened Inside the Closs Home?
Fitzgerald has repeatedly said that authorities aren’t sure. They’ve only said the scene was violent and there was a “disturbance” inside the house. They said gunshots were involved. Then, they said the parents were shot and victims of homicide, but they still haven’t provided additional details of the crime scene.
Sheriff Fitzgerald reiterated in a news conference that he wasn’t clear what happened yet: “That is the confusing part of this case. We don’t have any leads at this time on what really took place at that house,” he said, repeating several times that authorities are vexed by the case.
Is Jayme Closs Considered a Suspect?
Authorities have said from the start that they did not consider Jayme Closs a suspect. They considered her an endangered, missing girl. The sheriff said of Jayme: “Right now, she’s missing and endangered. She’s not listed as a suspect. And as of now, we are just focused on finding a 13-year-old scared girl.”
Authorities also say they don’t have a motive. On Tuesday, October 16, 2018, Sheriff Fitzgerald repeated that “Jayme is missing and endangered.”
“We want to bring Jayme home. That’s the main point,” Fitzgerald stressed.
Who Made the 911 Call?
Authorities received a 911 call from the home, which led to the bodies’ discovery, but they don’t know who made that call, Fitzgerald revealed. Dispatch records obtained by CNN show the call was made from Denise Closs’s cell phone and it pinged back to the residence. However, when the dispatcher called back, the phone went to voicemail. The dispatcher heard yelling during the call.
He said later that authorities know whose cell phone it was but won’t release that information. Fitzgerald said deputies arrived at the home 4 minutes after the 911 call came in.
According to the Amber Alert website, on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 12:53 a.m., the 911 call was received from Barron, Wisconsin. Authorities subsequently found the girl’s parents dead, but Jayme was missing.
Fitzgerald said it was made with a cell phone. Asked by a reporter if the word “help” could be heard on the 911 call, the sheriff responded, “I don’t know if the word help was said. I can’t comment on that.”
The sheriff said authorities don’t know who placed the 911 call because no one had contact with the 911 dispatchers. “We don’t know the answer to that,” he said, indicating that dispatchers “heard background noise. We are processing that.”
Who Is Jayme Closs?
Jayme Closs, despite her young age, also has a Facebook page.
“I love to dance at Christine’s Dance Jazz, ice-skating, valleyball (sic), swim, Art, cross country, Track, Dance,” Jayme wrote on her Facebook page, which she filled with photos of herself with a middle school sports team and in dance outfits.
Diane Tremblay, the administrator of the Barron Area School District, said in a news conference that Jayme Closs is a “sweet girl who is a loyal friend and loves to dance” and is a member of the cross country team.
She recalled how a school assignments asked Jayme what she would do with $1 million and Jayme answered that she would “feed the hungry and give the rest to the poor.”
On Facebook, Denise’s page is filled with photos of Jayme and other family members, including odes to her parents. The pictures show family-oriented activities, such as time at a pumpkin patch.
In July 2017, she wrote of Jayme, “Happy Birthday to My Daughter Jayme Closs who is Growing up to be the Sweetest and most kind Hearted Girl…Love you to the Moon And Back..Hope you Have the Best Day Ever…” Jayme responded in the thread, writing, “Thank you for Awesome Birthday Mom …and Thank you Aunt Sue for Everything. love you all…”
According to Sheriff Fitzgerald, Jayme Closs was seen at a family gathering on Sunday October 15, 2018.
Is the Public in Danger?
The sheriff said he didn’t believe the public was in immediate danger “that we know of.”
“We have a lot of unknowns in this case,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the frustrating part in the law enforcement world, the unknowns we’re hitting in this case. So, to say the public is not in danger, I cannot say that.” But he said authorities didn’t know of any other threats in the area.
“At the end of the end of the day, I want a 13-year-old here safe and sound. That’s our goal. That’s our only goal right now,” Fitzgerald said at a press conference.
The Amber Alert websites also provide the following information about Jayme Closs:
Oct 15, 2018
This article is being updated as more information is learned about Denise and James Closs and about the disappearance of Jayme Closs.