A 21-year-old man has been jailed over the deaths of a Wisconsin couple he killed because he wanted to kidnap their teenage daughter, investigators said yesterday, a day after the girl approached a stranger along a rural road saying she had been abducted in October and held against her will.
Jake Thomas Patterson was taken into custody shortly after 13-year-old Jayme Closs sought help from a woman walking her dog in a rural, heavily wooded neighbourhood near the small town of Gordon, about 100km north of Barron. Jayme disappeared from her family's home near Barron after her parents were killed October 15.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said during a news conference yesterday that Jayme was taken against her will. He said investigators believe Patterson killed Jayme's parents because he wanted to abduct her, and that Patterson "planned his actions and took many steps to hide his identity".
Fitzgerald said investigators believe the girl was "the only target" and don't believe Patterson had any contact with the family. Douglas County Sheriff Thomas Dalbec said Patterson was jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges.
The woman who first spotted Jayme on Thursday, Jeanne Nutter, said she was walking her dog along a rural road when a dishevelled teenage girl called out for help and quickly grabbed her. Only then did Jayme reveal her name.
Ms Nutter said Jayme told her she had walked away from a cabin where she'd been held captive, a cabin not far from Ms Nutter's home.
"I was terrified, but I didn't want to show her that," Ms Nutter, a social worker who spent years working in child protection, told The Associated Press. "She just yelled 'please help me I don't know where I am. I'm lost'.
"My only thought was to get her to a safe place."
The two went to the home of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas, who said Jayme was skinny and dirty, wearing shoes too big for her feet, but appeared outwardly OK.
Kristin Kasinskas, who called 911 to report the girl had been found, told the AP that Jayme had identified the suspect once she was safely inside her home.
"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."
Patterson lived just three doors down from Ms Kasinskas, but she said she didn't realise it until police identified him as the suspect. She said she never saw Patterson on her street or in town, and doesn't remember seeing him since he was in high school.
Ms Kasinskas said she taught Patterson science in middle school, but added: "I don't really remember a ton about him."
"He seemed like a quiet kid," she said. "I don't recall anything that would have explained this, by any means."
Mr Fitzgerald said Jayme was taken to a hospital but has since been medically cleared and released. She was not being interviewed by law enforcement, the sheriff said.
Jayme went missing after police discovered someone had broken into the family's home outside Barron and fatally shot her parents, James and Denise Closs. Jayme was nowhere to be found. The Barron County Sheriff's Department said the girl had likely been abducted.
Detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches in the effort to find Jayme. Some tips led officials to recruit 2,000 volunteers for a massive ground search on October 23, but it yielded no clues.
Mr Fitzgerald said in November that he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Jayme, including the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. Smart was rescued nine months later with the help of two witnesses who recognised her abductors from an 'America's Most Wanted' episode.
"I have a gut feeling she's (Jayme's) still alive," Fitzgerald said at the time.
Jayme's grandfather, Robert Naiberg, told the AP that he'd been praying for months for the call he received on Thursday about his granddaughter being found alive.
Mr Naiberg said his daughter called him with the news, saying Jayme reported having been held by "a guy in the woods" but was able to escape.