BARRON, Wis. – Authorities have named the suspect arrested in the kidnapping of 13-year-old Jayme Closs, and the murders of her parents last October.
At a press conference in Jayme’s home town of Barron, Wisconsin, Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald announced that 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson of Gordon, Wisconsin, is in custody on probable cause murder and kidnapping.
“The suspect planned his actions, and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from authorities,” Fitzgerald asserted.
Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec described how shortly after 4:30 p.m. Thursday a resident of the Town of Gordon was out walking her dog when a thin, disheveled girl approached and said she was Jayme Closs. That woman hustled Jayme to the door of a nearby home and told the resident to call 911.
A short time later, Dalbec said, a patrol sergeant spotted a vehicle with a description provided by Jayme, pulled it over and took Patterson into custody. Shortly afterwards, Sheriff Dalbec called his counterpart in Barron.
“I mean it was first unreal and is it true, and then when we confirmed with Sheriff Dalbec’s team, that it’s confirmed that it was her, my legs started to shake man, it was awesome,” Fitzgerald recalled. “It was just the stress and relief, I mean it was just it was awesome… I don’t have a different word, it was just fabulous, it was just great.”
Patterson was taken to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department in Superior, Wis., and then transported to the Barron County Jail in Barron, where he remains. Fitzgerald told reporters they are not looking for additional suspects.
Fitzgerald said Patterson has zero criminal history in Douglas County and zero criminal history in the state of Wisconsin. His investigators are currently in Duluth-Superior with Jayme interviewing her for details on the kidnapping and her time in captivity.
“We do believe Jayme was the only target,” Sheriff Fitzgerald shared. “We also do not believe at this time that the suspect had any contact with the family
Another news conference has been set for 4 p.m. to share an update with additional information.
Barron County Attorney Brian Wright says it is his intent to have a criminal complaint filed by next week. “It is our job in prosecuting this case to obtain justice for James, Denise and Jayme Closs. We will do so,” he insisted.
Though the sheriff and investigators from the FBI and Wisconsin Department of Criminal investigation collectively told reporters they could share few details as they are still building the case, there was a great deal of emotion on display when discussing Jayme, and her will to survive.
“Law enforcement locally and across the country continued to comb through over 3,500 tips and the family never gave up hope,” Fitzgerald said, describing the collective effort to bring the child home safe. “Last night our collective promise was fulfilled with Jayme’s safe recovery. Thank you to all.”
The Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations’ Brian O’Keefe took pains to emphasize the mission and camaraderie shared by dozens of law enforcement officers as they worked to break a frustrating case. “This case had so many challenging technical elements and everybody never blinked about putting aside their personal lives to bring a little girl home, and the work that got done, I haven’t seen this much work on any one case I’ve ben involved with,” O’Keefe said. “The friendships and professionalism of all agencies at every level have been beyond what anyone can expect. A lot of people are very emotional about recovery, it’s a happy thing, but now we have to work on recovery process and we’ve reached out to a lot of professionals to help this young lady and her family.”
The voice of Barron Area Public Schools Superintendent Diane Tremblay broke as she described how students and staff have coped in Jayme’s absence. “What has it been like in the Barron Area School District in the past months? It has been 88 days of hope for her safe return. 88 days of prayers for Jayme, her family, friends, our students staff and community. 88 days of holding onto faith that our authorities would never give up and they certainly did not,” Tremblay shared. “Finally, 88 days of our close-knit community with the same goal in mind… and that was to bring Jayme home and back into our arms.”