(GORDON, Wis.) — A 21-year-old man has been charged with kidnapping Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old girl who had been missing for three months, and killing her parents after the teen managed to “survive and escape” his clutches, authorities said.
Authorities identified the suspect Friday as Jake Thomas Patterson of Gordon, Wisconsin, the same town where Closs was found alive 88 days after she was abducted, authorities told reporters Friday morning.
Patterson, who is currently not employed, had been concealing Closs from his friends and family, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
“The subject planned his actions and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public,” Fitzgerald said.
In a news conference on Friday afternoon, he added that Patterson also shaved his head so he wouldn’t leave hair behind and tried to conceal footprints.
Closs escaped from Patterson’s home, where she was being held against her will, Fitzgerald said, but the circumstances under which she did so were not released. Douglas County emergency dispatchers received the 911 call around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said.
“It’s amazing, the will of that 13-year-old girl to survive and escape,” Fitzgerald said. “That comes from the hope and the prayers in this community and what everybody did.”
Patterson once worked at Hormel Foods, the same company as Closs parents, but did not know them or make contact with them, Fitzgerald said on Friday afternoon.
He “was hired one day but quit the next,” Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, a Hormel brand, wrote in a statement.
Patterson had specific intentions to kidnap Closs, but it’s still unclear how he became aware of Closs, Fitzgerald said.
A woman who was walking a dog found the teen and walked her to a nearby home, where the residents offered Closs food and water and called 911, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Both the woman who found Closs — who asked that her name not be used — and the residents of the nearby home recognized her from media reports, Fitzgerald said.
One of the residents, Peter Kasinskas, told ABC Saint Paul, Minnesota, station KSTP that when he opened his front door, he first noticed the woman’s dog running into his kitchen before she stated, “This is Jayme Closs. Call 911.”
Kasinskas described Closs as “pretty quiet,” but said the teen was able to give them the name and description of the man who kidnapped her.
Closs also told Kasinskas and his wife that she was being held in a house about a quarter mile away from their home. She managed to escape while Patterson wasn’t home, Fitzgerald said.
Douglas County deputies later located a vehicle matching a description of the suspect’s car provided by Closs, then pulled Patterson over and arrested him. They believe he was out looking for her. He was taken into custody in Douglas County and is currently being held at the Barron County jail on two charges of first-degree homicide and one charge of kidnapping.
Closs was reported missing on Oct. 15 after her parents, James and Denise Closs, aged 56 and 46, respectively, were found shot to death in their home in rural Barron, Wisconsin, about an hour’s drive south from where she was located.
Authorities are still trying to find out what happened to Closs during the three months she was missing. Investigators received more than 3,500 tips during that time, Fitzgerald said.
Shortly before Closs was found, a fake alert in Walworth County had been released saying she had been located, Fitzgerald said.
Her family “never gave up hope,” Fitzgerald said.
“Jayme is safe, and the family is requesting that you please respect their privacy at this extremely emotional time,” he said, adding that she has been medically cleared and is being interviewed by investigators.
“Jayme is the hero in this case. There is no question about it. She’s the one who helped us break the case,” Fitzgerald said on Friday afternoon.
Closs’ aunt and godmother, Jennifer Smith, told “Good Morning America” Friday that they would be reunited after Closs is released from the hospital in the afternoon.
“We are just happy everyone kept praying and didn’t give up hope like we didn’t,” Smith told ABC News Thursday evening. “A lot of happy tears in this house tonight.”
Patterson does not have a criminal history, and authorities are not searching for any additional suspects, Fitzgerald said.
On Friday afternoon, police served a search warrant at Patterson’s house in Gordon. Fitzgerald said they recovered several guns, including one that is consistent with what was used at the scene of the initial homicide. They are awaiting confirmation that it is the same weapon.
The case has been turned over to the Barron County District Attorney’s Office, Prosecutor Brian Wright told reporters. Wright plans to have a criminal complaint filed against Patterson by next week, he said.
Patterson will make his initial appearance in court on Monday at 3:30 p.m., where he will be formally charged with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of kidnapping.
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