US teen Jayme Closs defied the odds and stunned the world after surviving an 88-day abduction by a man who is believed to have murdered her parents in her home in rural Wisconsin.
It was October 15 last year when 13-year-old Jayme was allegedly kidnapped by an intruder who had just shot her parents Denise and James Closs.
Jake Patterson, 21, has been charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping over the incident. Police believe he entered the home of the Closs family by blowing in the front door with a shotgun, leaving few clues for investigators at the house in Barron County.
A panicked 911 call was made, with frantic movement heard, but no words audible. The call lasted for less than one minute before somebody hung up.
After murdering both her parents it is believed Mr Patterson then abducted Jayme and took her to his home about 120km away in Gordon.
Investigators believe the goal of the assailant was to kidnap Jayme, though Mr Patterson has no apparent prior connection to the family.
The 21-year-old is accused of keeping the young girl captive for the next 88 days. Little is known about what transpired over that period, however an FBI special agent working on the case has called it the kind of incident that every parent or family member “dreads”.
Mr Patterson has no criminal history.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, leading the investigation, has said he wants to know why Jayme was targeted, in an attack he has described as being calculated.
After the chilling murders, police were unable to recover a single fingerprint. They claim Patterson shaved his head to avoid being recognised or associated with the crime.
“She’s a survivor. Yes. She’s our little survivor,” Jayme’s aunt, Jennifer Naiburg Smith, said. She is now Jayme’s legal guardian.
‘SUSPECT WENT TO GREAT LENGTHS’
Before her parents were murdered, Jayme lived a normal teenage life centred around ice skating, volleyball and her dog Molly.
The horror began for the 13-year-old last October.
A 48-second 911 call was made but no words were audible. The Sheriff describes there being a lot of “movement” heard on the call before the phone is hung up. Officers arrived at the home in less than four minutes, but it was too late to stop the murders of Jayme’s parents or to rescue Jayme.
Investigators believe the intruder blew a hole in the front door of the Closs family’s home with a shotgun. James, 56, and Denise, 46, were then shot and killed.
“He targeted Jayme. He prepared himself to try and beat the forensics of law enforcement,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.
Due to the lack of physical evidence, police initially thought the parents were the targets, not Jayme.
But Sheriff Fitzgerald now believes the suspect had a lengthy plan to kidnap young Jayme, included the stalking the teen and a planning to kill her parents.
“The suspect had specific intentions to kidnap Jayme and went to great lengths to prepare to take her,” he said at a press conference.
INVESTIGATORS INITIALLY STUMPED
Although Jayme had disappeared, investigators said they initially “keyed in” on the parents because the daughter was an innocent child who they didn’t believe could be targeted.
Denise and James worked as supervisors at a turkey processing plant. It was initially suspected that a disgruntled worker may have murdered them.
Jake Patterson had, as it turns out, worked at the same turkey processing plant, but only for a single day three years ago.
This remains the single thread tying him to the Closs family. But investigators have ruled it out as a link, labelling it as being too tenuous.
At this stage investigators claim it appears to be a “stranger on stranger” crime.
“This is the nightmare case that we all, as parents, family members … dread,” FBI Special Agent Justin Tolomeo said.
“That there is a potential of somebody out there who commits acts of violence and takes your children.”
WHO IS JAKE PATTERSON?
Little is known about the reclusive suspect.
In the tiny town of Gordon, Wisconsin, with a population of just over 600, where “everybody knows everybody,” it seems nobody knew Mr Patterson.
Voted “quietest person in class” during high school, he appears to have remained similarly estranged from his peers and society after graduation.
He is believed to have been unemployed and didn’t attend any of the local businesses with enough frequency for anyone to recognise him.
Mr Patterson had been living in a property owned by his parents, alone, for many years since his mother and father moved away after separating.
The double-storey house had a trampoline in the backyard and a disused boat covered in tarps in the yard. It is unclear how he made a living.
He reportedly hadn’t been in contact with anybody in his family for many years.
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT JAYME’S ESCAPE
Jayme made her escape late on a Thursday afternoon. She approached a local woman walking her dog by flagging her down, saying, “I’m Jayme Closs!” The dog walker happened to be Jeanne Nutter, a former child protection worker.
Ms Nutter described Jayme’s condition as “skinny and dirty but outwardly OK”, saying her hair was matted. Jayme had made a harrowing journey across the freezing and snowy rural Wisconsin landscape to her escape. Ms Nutter said she was alarmed that the teen wasn’t wearing boots or gloves.
“She told me who she was and then that’s when I said this child needs to be someplace safe and you need to get her there now,” Ms Nutter said.
Wearing an oversized shirt and shoes that were too big for her, she described a girl who seemed like she’d grabbed at whatever she could to make her escape, trying to survive as she ran through the icy wilderness.
Ms Nutter told reporters she knew the young girl needed help and took her inside. Fearful the kidnapper may be looking for Jayme, she told her partner to get a gun as he called 911.
Jayme described Mr Patterson’s car to law enforcement officers and they found him soon after, driving the streets, allegedly hunting her.
Mr Patterson has been charged with two counts of homicide and one count of kidnapping.
It is unclear if further felony charges will be laid for crimes committed against Jayme while she was imprisoned.
“Now it’s about getting him the harshest sentence possible,” Jayme’s aunt Kelly Engelhart said.
Originally published as Girl’s 88-day ordeal after parents killed