Jayme Closs, a 13-year-old girl who vanished in the wake of her parents’ violent deaths almost three months before, has been found alive in northern Wisconsin, after she dramatically emerged from an area of cabins in the woods and rushed up to a social worker who was walking her golden retriever.
The Barron County Sheriff has named the suspect as Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, and says Jayme was abducted. 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.”
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, Jayme was 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’s aunt shared this photo of Jayme, the aunt, and Jayme’s dog after their reunion.
“Jayme is safe,” the Barron County Sheriff said on January 11, 2019, calling it “extremely emotional” for the family. The Douglas County Sheriff said the suspect, who has no criminal history, was arrested after a deputy saw his vehicle, which had matched the description Jayme gave when she escaped.
Her hair matted, like “a ghost,” Jayme was suddenly back. “I went to her and she just sort of grabbed onto me and she told me who she was. I’ve been a social worker my whole life. I was in child protection, so I believe my CPS personality just turned on,” dog walker Jeanne Nutter told USA Today. “My goal was to get her someplace safe, to call 911.”
In a chilling 12-page criminal complaint released on January 14, 2019, authorities gave every indication that Jake Patterson allegedly acted alone. They accuse him of kidnapping Jayme after randomly seeing her getting on a school bus outside her family’s Barron home. He didn’t know her name or the names of her parents then but, the complaint alleges, “When he saw (Jayme) he knew that was the girl he was going to take.” (You can read the criminal complaint in full and get more details from it here.)
You can watch the Sheriff’s Department press conference live here:
Appearing were Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Justin Tolomeo, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, Adminstrator Division of Criminal investigation Brian O’Keefe, Nick Wanick of the Wisconsin State Patrol, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec, Barron County DA Brian Wright, and Barron Schools Superintendent Diane Tremblay.
Fitzgerald called it an “amazing day.”
“Jayme is in the comforting embrace of law enforcement as the investigation into her three month ordeal” continues, the sheriff said, referring repeatedly to the 88 days she was missing.
They ran to a neighbor’s for help. “It was like I was seeing a ghost,” Peter Kasinskas, who lives in that Town of Gordon, Wisconsin home told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. His wife revealed to The Today Show: “She kind of talked about being locked up or hidden when this person had to leave, but she did not go into any detail about how she got away.”
The Barron County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin confirmed the stunning development that Jayme was found alive, putting an end to one of the mysterious disappearances in the state.
The disappearance of Jayme vexed veteran law enforcement officials. However, now, authorities say they have a suspect in the case (reportedly a 21-year-old) and – in a miracle development- the teen is alive. They did not release the suspect’s name or any new details of the case. Jayme was found alive in Douglas County, Wisconsin, which is located just over an hour from Barron, the small town in northwestern Wisconsin where Jayme lived.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department says that she was found in the Town of Gordon, a community of 645 people, saying in a statement, “The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirms that Barron County missing person JAYME CLOSS was located alive in the Town of Gordon in Douglas County at 4:43pm and a suspect was taken into custody at 4:54pm, also in the Town of Gordon.” The Star Tribune reported that authorities were searching a cabin in the 14100 block of S. Eau Claire Acres Circle.
KTSP-TV also 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, but the dog walker and her husband have spoken briefly to different publications, confirming that essential story.
The KTSP journalist gave more details in a live broadcast, saying that the 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. Authorities then quickly set up a perimeter in the wooded area.
It all began on October 15, 2018, when authorities received a cell phone call from someone they haven’t named (various reports have said it was Jayme’s mother’s phone, though) around 1 a.m. on a Monday. Responding to the Closs residence in tiny Barron, Wisconsin, they discovered the bodies of Denise Closs, and her husband, James Closs, who were shot to death, James in the doorway and Denise elsewhere in the residence. Dispatch records indicated the door was kicked in.
Their middle-school-aged daughter, Jayme – who ran on the cross country team and was known for her love of dancing – was gone. Simply gone. For days, which extended into weeks and then months, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald publicly expressed frustration at all of the unknowns in the case. They didn’t have a motive. They didn’t have a suspect. They didn’t have a suspect vehicle. If they had a working theory in the case, they weren’t saying that, either. Fitzgerald said authorities had no idea whether Jayme was abducted, left with someone or was on her own. They used drones to try to find her. It didn’t work.
Authorities said early on that the parents were the victims of homicides, and they say they believe Jayme was in the home at the time. Who took her? What were the circumstances? Authorities aren’t saying – yet.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Neighbor Says Jayme Was Skinny With Matted Hair & Wearing Too-Big Shoes When Found
Nutter described a frightening scene because she didn’t know where the suspect was located when she found Jayme. “I didn’t know where the perpetrator of this was and she wasn’t sure either, so I just went to a couple places trying to find people,” she told USA Today. “She’s a traumatized child. I believe she was just maybe in shock.”
Kristin Kasinskas, a teacher who lives nearby, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that her neighbor walking a dog “frantically knocked” on Kasinskas’s door around 4 p.m. on January 10.
“Standing with her was a skinny, dirty girl with matted hair, wearing shoes too big for her feet,” the Star Tribune reported. “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!” the neighbor said to Kasinskas, according to the newspaper, which said that Jayme was described as quiet with emotions that were “pretty flat.” The family tried to calm her with their puppy and offered her water and food, but she didn’t take it, the newspaper reported.
Kristin told the Today Show that Jayme “seemed kind of in shock, and kind of timid, but she did talk to us a little bit. She came in and sat down in our living room and was able to have a conversation with us.” She wasn’t sure what town she was in and didn’t have much to say about the suspect. She told KARE 11 that Jayme “didn’t express any fear fear,” Kasinskas said. “She didn’t say that she was afraid this person was coming after her.” Although Jayme was disheveled, Kristin recognized her, telling KARE11, “I knew it was her the second she walked in the door…A little unkempt, but okay over all.”
“She did state who she believed had her, and she did give us a little information about the person’s car. But other than that she didn’t give us a ton of details,” she said to Today.
The woman who found Jayme spoke to the Star Tribune without her name being printed. She told the newspaper that Jayme “came up to me and said she wanted help.” She said she thought she knew who Jayme was, but then Jayme provided her name, the Star-Tribune reported.
The Daily Beast reported that Jeanne Nutter, a social walker, was the dog walker who 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.”
Christina Palladino of Fox 9 wrote on social media that she spoke to Jayme’s aunt and “Jayme is talking and seems to be in ok spirits…Apparently still at a hospital near Duluth and will be talking with investigators all night piecing together the details of what happened.”
Family members have started adding the filter “welcome home Jayme” to their Facebook pages.
“Sheriff Fitzgerald, Law Enforcement and their families, reporters, Chris Kroeze, facebook friends and all our surrounding communities who came together to bring Jayme home……THANK YOU!” wrote one of Jayme’s relatives on Facebook. “There are no words to describe how humbling it is to have so many people who don’t even know you come together to help our family. We will forever hold you all close to our hearts. Please celebrate with us tonight! And in the days to come…..please continue to pray….now for Jayme’s well-being and our families healing. Continue to pray for all the children who are still missing this day that they may too be reunited with thier families. From the bottom of our hearts with sincere gratitude…..THANKYOU!”
2. The Sheriff’s Department Confirmed That Jayme Was Found & Described the Investigation as Fluid
It was the miracle that many were hoping for but, as the months passed, it had seemed less and less likely: That Jayme would be found alive. However, that’s exactly what the Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin announced.
Here is the full statement that the Barron County Sheriff’s Department released on the evening of January 10, 2019:
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’s the sheriff’s post on Facebook:
Two and a half hours before the above 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. – several hours after the false news comment. Walworth County is nowhere near Barron or Douglas Counties. It’s in the southeast part of the state.
The Douglas County Sheriff also wrote on Facebook, “I am very pleased to announce that Jayme Closs was located late this afternoon within Douglas County. I cannot release anymore details at this time as the investigation is ongoing. Great job to the members of the DGSO who helped in locating Jayme and the citizen who phoned in the information.”
Channel 58 in Milwaukee reported that about five law enforcement agencies were at the Walworth property for a day. It’s an older farmhouse. According to Fox 6 Milwaukee, in that case, two bodies were found in a burn pit, according to sources. The supposed Walworth link to Jayme Closs was posted by the Back the Blue Facebook page, which later deleted it and revealed, “The post regarding Jayme, we were given incorrect information earlier. We knew Jayme was alive but was given wrong information on the location. The post was also posted premature by a former admin.”
The Walworth County incident had “no connection” to the case, Fitzgerald said.
Shortly thereafter, a 911 call came into Douglas County. The Douglas County sheriff confirmed the 911 call was from an “individual walking her dog who said she was approached by a young female who said she was Jayme Closs.”
The Barron County sheriff has described a violent scene in the Closs family home in Barron and said there was a shooting in the house, but, for months, he declined to give many more details.
“Our deputies on scene. This is a tough scene. And they’re frustrated,” said Fitzgerald in a news conference the day after Jayme vanished. “…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.
“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.”
Fitzgerald says there was a “disturbance” inside the house. He said gunshots were involved.
The sheriff was very open for days about how little information authorities had. Sheriff Fitzgerald reiterated in a news conference early on in the case 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.
3. James & Denise Closs Worked at a Local Turkey Plant & Their Relatives Expressed Relief OVer Jayme’s Return
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 shortly after Jayme vanished.
Jeff Closs, Jayme’s uncle, told KARE11 after she was found: “It was just unbelievable because you hear about … you’re not sure if she’s going to be found. And when you actually hear it, it’s just unbelievable. We’re all just so grateful and happy. We thought it was going to be a different ending and we’re so happy that you know, hopefully she’s OK, we don’t really know what shape she’s in. Or you know, we don’t really know a lot, all we know is just she’s alive.”
Both James and Denise Closs worked at Jennie-O, which is a turkey plant in Barron, a town of about 3,300 people located in rural, northwestern Wisconsin. Although a quiet, country town, Barron is located in one of the areas of the state with a severe meth problem. However, authorities have given no indication that might be connected.
The sheriff has indicated that gunfire was involved at the scene. The sheriff added on 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. It was later released that the parents were shot to death and were victims of homicide.
A neighbor told WISN-TV that they heard gunshots. Family members had never given up.
On October 16, Miami police tweeted that there was a report of a possible sighting of Jayme at a gas station in Miami, Florida, but the Wisconsin sheriff later said authorities didn’t consider that report to be credible.
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.
4. Jayme Closs Was Described as Loving Dance & Being Sweet
Jayme Closs decribed herself on Facebook.
“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 assignment 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.”
The Sheriff had indicated it’s possible that Jayme was abducted, but he stopped short of saying that for sure. That was befire she was found though. At one point shortly after she disappeared, he said authorities don’t know if Jayme is with a stranger, someone she knows or on her own.
“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. It basically continued like that until the surprise development that Jayme was found.
“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.”
Sheriff Fitzgerald says authorities questioned multiple people because they follow up on every tip. An Amber Alert was initially delayed because authorities didn’t have a suspect or suspect vehicle description, but one was eventually put out.
Early on, authorities said they did not consider Jayme Closs a suspect. They considered her an endangered, missing girl. The sheriff said of Jayme early on in the case: “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.”
Relative Seara Closs wrote on Facebook:
It looks like we had a signature pose when we took pictures together Miss Jayme Closs:) I didn’t even realize we did that, until this very moment, while I’m going thru our family pictures, worrying sick about you:( wishing we could trade places just to get you home and out of harms way:( I think it’s clear that I loved scooping you up in my arms from the beginning. (Where grandpa didn’t know he got caught staring at you) our picture technique together was a perfect Balance, of your wonderful shyness and my obnoxious boldness…. ? I’ll be waiting for our next scooped picture my love!!!!! Don’t forget you have some seriously bad ass guardian angels with you now and always baby girl! Grandpa Jim (James) Closs, your Momma Bear, Denise Closs and your very own night and shinning armor, your Daddyo Jim JR Closs….love all of you!!!take care of her guys, until we get her home and safe, then we can take over from our end!!!!
She also shared a series of family photos.
Authorities also said for days that 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.
5. Authorities Received a 911 Call From the Home Via a Cell Phone
Authorities received a 911 call from the home, which led to the bodies’ discovery.
He said later that authorities know whose cell phone it was but won’t release that information. The sheriff told Ashleigh Banfield that the cell phone was recovered.
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.
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.”
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.
The Amber Alert websites provided the following information about Jayme Closs:
Oct 15, 2018
This article is being updated as more information is learned about the discovery of Jayme Closs.