Suspect's goal was kidnapping Jayme Closs, not killing her parents, police say
Teenager was located in Douglas County on Jan. 10. Appleton Post-Crescent
GORDON, Wis. – Jake Thomas Patterson allegedly shaved his head to avoid leaving DNA evidence behind when he blasted open the door of Jayme Closs' home with a shotgun in October, police said Friday.
Patterson's goal was kidnapping Jayme – not killing her parents, police said.
At a news conference Friday evening, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said authorities have recovered a shotgun consistent with the weapon that was used to kill Jayme's parents, James, 56, and Denise, 46, during Jayme's abduction Oct. 15.
Other firearms were recovered in the search of the home in a wooded neighborhood near Gordon, where Jayme was believed to be held during the 88 days she was missing.
Patterson was being was being held in the Barron County Jail Friday on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. He was arrested after Jayme escaped Thursday from the isolated home outside Gordon.
Patterson, 21, was familiar with the city of Barron, where Jayme's family lived, and targeted her specifically, police said. Authorities did not provide details of why he targeted her or how he became aware of her address.
Authorities said there is no evidence that Jayme, 13, or her parents knew Patterson before the crime was committed. Police have found no evidence that any of them communicated on social media.
Jayme was reunited with her aunt Friday afternoon, Fitzgerald said. "She is doing as well as circumstances allow," he added.
Patterson had no criminal history. Neither he nor the Town of Gordon, where Jayme was found, were the focus of the investigation until Jayme escaped Thursday afternoon, Fitzgerald said.
Patterson was not inside the home when Jayme fled, Fitzgerald said. Police believe he may have been driving around looking for her when an officer spotted the car that matched a description that Jayme provided. The officer pulled it over and arrested Patterson, police said.
"That is the will of kid to survive," Fitzgerald said at Friday's news conference.
Dogwalker who found her: 'She just sort of grabbed onto me'
Thursday evening, a skinny girl with matted hair emerged from a wooded area in rural Wisconsin and told Jeanne Nutter, who was walking her dog, that she was Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old who had been missing since her parents were found shot dead in October.
“I went to her and she just sort of grabbed onto me and she told me who she was," Jeanne Nutter, a retired social worker, told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
Nutter's background in child protective services kicked into high gear. She rushed Jayme to a nearby home and banged on the door.
Kristin Kasinskas opened it. "This is Jayme Closs! Call 911 right now!" Nutter said.
Jayme didn't want anything to eat or drink, but she was cold and wrapped herself in the blanket Kasinskas offered.
Overall, she was calm and able to talk, Kasinskas said.
“She’s a traumatized child. I believe she was just maybe in shock,” Nutter said.
Community's prayers answered
News of Jayme's escape was an answer to their prayers, members of the Barron community said Friday.
Steve Lykken, president of the Jennie-O Turkey Store in Barron, where Jayme's parents worked for years, said people there were “overjoyed” at Jayme’s return.
“We are still mourning the loss of longtime Jennie-O family members Jim and Denise, but our entire team is celebrating with the community, and the world, that Jayme has been found,” he said.
Lykken added that Patterson was employed by the turkey processing plant for one day nearly three years ago. Patterson quit the next day, saying he was moving from the area.
“He has not been employed with Jennie-O since then,” Lykken said.
Diane Tremblay, superintendent of Barron Area Schools, called Jayme "an extraordinary young lady.”
"It has been 88 days of hope for her safe return; 88 days of prayers for Jayme, her friends, our students, staff and community; 88 days of holding onto the faith that our authorities would never give up," Tremblay said at the news conference.
Less than 24 hours after the news broke that Jayme had been found alive, businesses and local churches around Baron posted signs saying, “Welcome home, Jayme.
Gordon is about 40 miles south of Lake Superior and about 65 miles north of Barron, Jayme’s hometown. The town is home to about 645 people in a heavily forested region where logging is the top industry. During the winter, many homes are left vacant.
Neighbor Daphne Ronning said Patterson's parents moved to a home in the area about 15 years ago and that Patterson, who authorities said had no previous criminal history, and his brother were raised there.
Jayme's aunt, Kelly Engelhardt told KARE-TV in Minneapolis that she's prayed for this moment "every single day."
Elizabeth Smart, an outspoken advocate on kidnapping after her much publicized captivity in 2002 shook the nation, called the news of Jayme's safety a "miracle" on Friday.
Smart posted on Instagram: "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."
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Jayme's disappearance, which drew national attention, was shrouded in mystery. Although police authorities received more than 2,000 tips, they had few leads.
At about 1 a.m. Oct. 15, police received a 911 call that led them to the Closs home, where Jayme's parents were found dead from gunshot wounds. Jayme was missing and there weren't any solid leads on her whereabouts. Hours later, local authorities said the girl was in danger and asked the public for help finding her. An Amber Alert was also issued.
Since then, authorities and missing persons groups had been looking for Jayme.