A 21-year-old male has been charged with murdering the parents of an American teen as part of a chilling plot to kidnap her, police said yesterday, 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 on Thursday afternoon, seeking help from a neighbour 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,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters.
“At this moment, Jayme is in the comforting embrace of law enforcement,” said Fitzgerald, 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 (120km) north of her home in Barron, Wisconsin.
She escaped and ran to a vacation cabin where Jeanne Nutter was just returning around 4.30pm on Thursday after walking her dog.
“She said she was lost, she didn’t know where she was,” Nutter told AFP. “I didn’t know the situation until she got near me.
“And then she told me her name, and I knew who she was because I’d seen her picture everywhere.”
The 66-year-old immediately took the teen to a neighbour’s home to call police.
Closs was undergoing mental evaluation and questioning by detectives, who had not yet established what had happened to her over the last three months, the motive for the kidnapping, or how she escaped, police said.
Patterson was the authorities’ only suspect.
He has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of kidnapping, but will not appear in court until an official criminal complaint is filed next week.
Patterson was arrested without resistance on a road near his home and did not appear to be looking for Jayme, police said.
Closs had been missing since October 15, when authorities received a 911 call from a cellphone inside her rural home in Barron.
Upon arrival police found her parents James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, shot dead.
“Jayme was inside the home when her parents were killed,” Fitzgerald said.
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