Last week a thin, dazed and dishevelled teenager who had been missing for almost three months was found alive, wandering in a remote wooded area of Wisconsin.
Jayme Closs vanished from her family home in October, following an attack which saw both of her parents brutally murdered.
The next time she was seen was 88 days later, hastily dressed in shoes and clothes clearly too big for her, as she begged a dog walker for help.
On 15 October the bodies of James, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, were found in their family home in Barron, Wisconsin.
The front door had been blown off its hinges and both adults had suffered fatal gunshot wounds. Most disturbing of all, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Jayme was nowhere to be seen.
Police issued an amber alert for the teenager immediately, dispatching some 200 officers to help search for her. Investigators said they did not consider Jayme a suspect, and warned they believed the teenager was in danger.
The FBI offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to Jayme’s location, an amount later doubled to $50,000 by the Jennie-O Turkey Store, where the Closs couple work.
How did Jayme escape?
On 10 January, the frantic teenager escaped from where she was being held captive and flagged down a passer-by in the town of Gordon, about a 90-minute drive from her home in Barron.
The passer-by then dashed to a neighbour’s house to call the police. As they waited for officers to arrive, homeowner Peter Kasinskas retrieved his gun and stood watch in case Jayme’s captor returned, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Kasinskas said Jayme looked: “Tired, skinny. You know, dirty. She hasn’t – probably hasn’t bathed in quite a while, if at all. Yeah, she just looked rough, she looked rough. Yeah, she didn’t really have any emotion, she was kind of probably in shock, you know, relieved… it’s probably too much for her brain to really handle right then.”
Jeanne Nutter, the dog walker who first encountered Jayme, told the Associated Press: “She just said: ‘I’m lost, I don’t know where I am.’ She said ‘I don’t know where I am’ a couple of times and I explained, ‘you’re in Gordon, Wisconsin.’
“And then when I knew who she was, I said ‘Jayme, you’re really an hour and a half or so from home.’”
Minutes later, police stopped a suspect based on Jayme’s description, who is alleged to have told investigators he had been driving around looking for her.
Who is the suspect?
Jake Patterson, 21, was arrested on the same day Jayme was found. A day later, investigators announced he was being held on murder and kidnapping charges.
Little is known about what Patterson did for money, though it has since emerged that he applied for a job on the very day he was arrested.
Managers at a local alcohol warehouse say they received an online application from Patterson, who was trying to secure a nighttime position. In his CV he described himself as an “honest and hardworking guy. Not much work experience but I show up to work and am a quick learner”.
Patterson wrote in his high school yearbook that he planned to join the US Marines after graduation, but military records show he lasted only about five weeks before being prematurely discharged in October 2015 at the rank of private.
Marine spokeswoman Yvonne Carlock said Patterson’s early discharge indicated “the character of his service was incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards”.
Jayme’s surviving family have no links to Patterson and it’s not known if he had any interaction with her parents. Although he spent just one day working at the same turkey plant as Jayme’s parents two years ago, investigators say he did not know them.
Photos of the remote cabin where Jayme was allegedly held show an unfinished ceiling, a three-car garage and an empty box of adult female nappies by the bins. A sign over the door reads ‘Patterson’s Retreat’.
What do we know so far?
According to the authorities, Patterson confessed to killing Jayme’s father with a shotgun while the teenager and her mother cowered in a bathtub. He is then alleged to have kicked down the bathroom door and killed her mother after forcing her to help tape up her daughter’s mouth, hands and ankles.
He told police he had spotted the teenager outside her home while driving to a short-lived job at a cheese factory. She was getting on the school bus and “he knew that she was the girl he was going to take”, according to court documents.
He is alleged to have prepared for the abduction by buying a ski mask, shaving his head so as not to leave any hairs as evidence and replacing his license plates with stolen ones. Twice he drove to the Closs family home ahead of the final attack, but was frightened off after seeing lights on and people there, prosecutors said.
Jayme told police she was woken up on 15 October when the family dog began barking, also waking her parents, as a car entered their driveway. James Closs was shot through the front door, while Jayme and her mother Denise barricaded themselves in the bathroom.
After allegedly kicking down the door, Patterson ordered Denise to tape up her daughter, then shot her dead before dragging Jayme into the boot of his car.
On his way to his cabin around 66 miles away, Patterson claims to have driven past several police cars responding to reports of the shooting.
During her months in captivity, Jayme was reportedly kept trapped under a bed when the suspect left the house or had visitors. He would surround the bed with plastic boxes, laundry bins and barbell weights so that she was unable to move without him noticing. She was often kept for up to 12 hours at a time with no food, water or access to a toilet. He threatened violence if she tried to escape, warning her that “bad things could happen” if anyone found her there, prosecutors say.
On the day of her escape, her captor is said to have told her he would be away for a few hours, giving her time to double her efforts and force her way through his barricades. Once out, she put on a pair of his shoes – on the wrong feet in her haste – and rushed outside into the path of a woman who was walking her dog.
What happens now?
On 14 January, Patterson was formally charged with two counts of murder – both punishable by life in prison – and one count of kidnapping and armed burglary.
He will be held on $5million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
Speaking after a court hearing, Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright said Jayme “deserves enormous credit” for her bravery and escape.
Her aunts say they are supporting the teenager – and are not pressing her about her nearly three-month-long ordeal.
Lynn Closs and Sue Allard told CBS This Morning that they’re proud of Jayme, and said her strength is “incredible”.
Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, told the Associated Press that everyone endures different mental and psychological trauma after kidnappings, but Jayme will have to confront the fact that there “is no going back to the way things were”.
“Probably one of the more difficult issues is going to be finding that new sense of normalcy in her life,” said Smart, now a 31-year-old mother-of-three. “Not recreating the old but (creating) the new and learning to be OK with that.”
Smart said she would feel defensive when people asked her why she didn’t run or scream when her captors sometimes travelled with her out in the open. Smart was found nine months after her disappearance while walking with her kidnappers in a Salt Lake City suburb by people who recognised the couple from media reports.
“My brain heard that question as: ‘You should have tried harder. You should have run, you should have yelled, this is somehow your fault,’” Smart said. “So, I would just caution her community and anyone able to interact with her to really think about the questions they are asking her.”
Meanwhile, the parents of missing Madeleine McCann, who vanished during a family holiday to Portugal in 2007 welcomed the “great news” of Jayme’s escape.
In an online post, Kate and Gerry McCann said: “Jayme is an example of why we never lose hope and never stop searching.”
A rare occurrence
Abductions of children by strangers remain rare, according to US data.
On average, fewer than 350 people under the age of 21 have been abducted by strangers in the US per year since 2010, the FBI says. From 2010 to 2017, the most recent data available, the number has ranged from a low of 303 in 2016 to a high of 384 in 2011, with no clear directional trend.
That makes the cases of Jayme and Elizabeth highly uncommon.
Hundreds of thousands of young people are reported missing to the FBI each year. The circumstances of the disappearance is only recorded about half the time, but in cases where they are, only 0.1% are reported as having been abducted by a stranger. The vast majority, typically more than 95%, run away.
The FBI data does not record how many reported abductions are confirmed as actual kidnappings.
“It doesn’t happen very often, but they’re certainly the cases that capture our attention because they strike at our worst fears,” Robert Lowery, a vice president at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said.
A US Justice Department study in 2002 reported that 99.8% of children reported missing were found alive.
The NCMEC says that abductions by strangers are the rarest type of cases of missing children. Strangers are most likely to attempt to abduct a child as they head to or from school, the centre said.