A 21-year-old man shot a couple to death at their home in a scheme to kidnap their teenage daughter, then held the girl captive for three months in an isolated north woods town before she managed to escape, US authorities have said.
Jayme Closs, 13, was skinny, dishevelled and wearing shoes too big for her when she approached a stranger and pleaded for help on Thursday in a small town in Wisconsin, northern US, where Jake Thomas Patterson lives.
Mr Patterson was apparently out looking for her when he was arrested and jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
Jayme disappeared from her home near Barron after someone broke in and shot her parents, James and Denise Closs, on October 15. The sheriff said investigators believe Mr Patterson killed them in order to abduct the girl.
Girl’s harrowing escape
Jayme told one of the neighbours in Gordon who took her in that she had walked away from a cabin where she had been held captive.
The woman who first spotted Jayme on Thursday, Jeanne Nutter, said she was walking her dog along a rural road when a disheveled girl called out to her, grabbed her and revealed her name.
“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!'”
Neighbour Kristin Kasinskas called emergency services to report the girl had been found after Ms Nutter brought her to Ms Kasinskas’ house.
“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.”
Minutes later, Mr Patterson was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy based on a description of his vehicle Jayme provided, authorities said.
The accused unlikely to have known family
The sheriff said investigators are trying to figure out what happened to Jayme during her captivity and why she was seized, and gave no details on how she escaped except to say Mr Patterson was not home at the time.
He said there is no evidence Mr Patterson knew Jayme or her family or had been contact with her on social media.
The sheriff said that he did not know if Jayme had been physically abused but that she was hospitalised overnight for observation and released after an exam.
Investigators were still interviewing her, and she was “doing as well as circumstances allow,” he said.
He was scheduled for an initial court appearance Monday. It was not immediately known whether the unemployed Ms Patterson had an attorney.
Accused avoided leaving evidence
Mr Patterson tried to avoid leaving evidence at the scene of the killings, taking such steps as shaving his head beforehand, the sheriff said.
A shotgun similar to the one used was recovered from the home where police believe Jayme was held, the sheriff said.
Property records show that the cabin belonged to Mr Patterson’s father at the time of Jayme’s disappearance.
Mr Patterson worked for one day in 2016 at the same Jennie-O turkey plant in Barron as Jayme’s parents, Jennie-O Turkey Store President Steve Lykken said.
Mr Patterson quit the next day, saying he was moving from the area, Lykken said. But the sheriff said it did not appear Mr Patterson interacted with them during his brief time working there.
Mr Patterson had no criminal record, according to the sheriff.
After Jayme vanished, detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches. Officials recruited 2,000 volunteers for a huge ground search October 23, but it yielded no clues.
– Associated Press