Kidnapped American teen found alive months after parents' murder
A 21-year-old man has been charged with murdering the parents of a US teen as part of a chilling plot to kidnap her, police said Friday, after 13-year-old Jayme Closs was found alive following three months in captivity.
The subject of a nationwide search since her parents were found murdered in their home in rural Wisconsin in October, Closs made a seemingly miraculous escape Thursday afternoon, seeking help from a neighbor who alerted authorities.
Minutes later police arrested the man she identified as her captor, Jake Thomas Patterson, and have charged him with abducting Closs and fatally shooting her parents.
"Jayme was taken against her will and escaped from the residence in which she was being held and found help," Fitzgerald said.
"At this moment, Jayme is in the comforting embrace of law enforcement," Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters, adding that the teen had been medically cleared from the hospital and was talking to investigators.
Authorities said Patterson had carefully planned his attack -- specifically targeting the young teen for reasons that remained unclear.
The sheriff said the suspect had no prior contact with the Closs family, and that the teen "was the only target."
"I can tell you that the subject planned his actions and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public," Fitzgerald said.
Closs was being held in a rural home approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of her home in Barron, Wisconsin.
Witnesses told US media that the young girl -- her hair matted and wearing oversized shoes -- approached a neighbor who was walking her dog, asking for help. Together they headed to a nearby home.
"She knocked on our door," Kristin Kasinskas told CNN, "and helped Jayme into the room, and said, 'This is Jayme Closs, call 911 right now.'"
"She said to us: 'This person killed my parents and took me,'" Kasinskas added.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper, citing witnesses, described Closs's appearance as gaunt, with matted hair and shoes too big for her feet.
Closs had been missing since October 15, when authorities received a 911 call from a cellphone inside her home.
Police found her parents James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, shot dead, and undertook a nationwide search for Jayme, describing her as "endangered," but the trail had gone cold until Thursday.
In the wooded area, which has few year-round residents, police had reportedly blocked access to a cabin believed to be that of the suspect.
Closs was believed to have witnessed the murders of her parents but was not considered a suspect based on evidence recovered at the scene, police said at the time.
The Star Tribune said Closs's aunt Sue Allard sobbed upon hearing news that the teen had been found.
"Praise the Lord," she said. "It's the news we've been waiting on for three months. I can't wait to get my arms around her."