Less than 90 days ago, 13-year old Jayme Closs suffered an unimaginably harrowing day. She’s a victim; she’s a survivor; she’s a child; and she’s an orphan. She’s also the primary hero of her own tragic story.
“It seemed almost undeniable that Jayme was in grave danger.”
A collective and horrified gasp echoed across the waking homes of the north midwestern state of Wisconsin on October 15th, as the reports of the atrocious findings at the Closs household near the city of Barron, Wisconsin, broke across the morning news stations.
Barron is a town of around 3,500 people, and Jayme’s family didn’t even live in town. The city of Barron lies within the town of Barron, which itself lies in Barron County. The entire county is home to only around 46,000 people, and the small city of Barron is its county seat. The county lies within the relatively rural heart of northwestern Wisconsin. Jayme Closs is by all measures a “small town girl.”
Shortly before 1:00 AM on a Monday morning, Barron County police received a mysterious 911 call that was soon pinged to the Closs residence and was later determined to have come from Jayme’s mother’s phone. No one on the calling end of the line spoke, but noise of a disturbance could be heard in the background.
When the police responded just four minutes later, they found the door to Jayme’s home kicked in, and they found her father and mother each shot dead inside. Jayme was determined to have been home at the time of the shootings, but was nowhere to be found by the time police arrived. It seemed almost undeniable that Jayme was in grave danger.
Authorities responded with impressive speed and in admirable force. An Amber Alert immediately went out. The investigation was rapidly joined by numerous agencies from the State of Wisconsin, as well as by the FBI.
The community-minded people of Wisconsin turned out in droves to conduct searches. Sympathizers and volunteers flooded into the normally quiet Barron County to aid with the search. When the search eventually came to an end, the Barron County Sheriff was sure to thank the community for not only their calls and tips, but also for the food they’d provided to authorities over the past 88 days.
For nearly three months, the disappearance of Jayme Closs and the murder of her parents never left the minds of the people of Wisconsin. Local news outlets across the state refused to allow it to fade away. Conversations and updates about the Closs case remained a topic of neighborly conversation in cities hours from the scene of the crime.
There is little doubt that this focus and awareness played a role in the instant recognition of Jayme Closs when she was finally found. Just hours after a false social media report that Jayme had been found in Walworth County in the opposite (southeast) corner of the state was dismissed, a woman walking her dog in Gordon, Wisconsin, discovered Jayme and immediately knew who she was.
Gordon, Wisconsin, where Jayme Closs was finally discovered by a woman who is still too overwhelmed by the whole thing to allow her name to be released, is in Douglas County. That county is two counties north of Barron County, bordering Minnesota and Lake Superior. Jayme had been taken about 70 miles away from her home.
The woman who first discovered Jayme outside took her to the home of a nearby neighbor who also immediately recognized the 13-year old. Their familiarity with the case enabled them to quickly and effectively react to finding her and to immediately contact local authorities who were still also actively searching and were prepared to act on a moment’s notice.
Jayme Closs was safe in custody, and authorities were outside of the location where Jayme had previously been held before her kidnapper ever knew she was away.
Despite the hours and efforts of authorities, the outpouring of support from the public, the constant reminders from local media outlets statewide, and the national interest the case garnered, it was 13-year old Jayme Closs who single-handedly escaped from the man who killed her parents and kidnapped her in the middle of the night.
The morning after she escaped to safety, authorities admitted that they still had astonishingly little information about about what transpired prior to, during, or after Jayme’s captivity or why she was taken in the first place. They disclosed that they had no evidence, suspicion of, links to, or knowledge of her kidnapper, Jake Thomas Patterson, prior to Jayme’s escape. In fact, they confessed, they had no leads at all.
Jake Thomas Patterson is 21 years old, and a resident of Gordon, Wisconsin, in the neighborhood where Jayme was found. He gave himself up to authorities when they arrived to take him into custody, and he is being held in the Barron County jail.
The police do not know how Patterson knew of Jayme, as he is not thought to have been known to Jayme or her family. He does seem to have specifically targeted Jayme prior to the abduction, though. Authorities say that he completely eluded discovery by taking extensive and effective measures to avoid detection both by them and by the public after Jayme was abducted.
As the interviews are conducted and the investigation unfolds, more information is certain to present itself. One can only imagine the impressive steps this 13-year old girl must have considered and taken to free herself from a captor who was her superior in physical size, age, and experience, and who obviously spent time planning how to effectively abduct and imprison her.
What is certain at this early stage, though, is that this very young woman, who’d watched her own parents be brutally murdered in her home before she was snatched away to an unfamiliar area, was amazingly able to summon the strength and courage to save herself when the masses of her well-intentioned seekers still did not stand a chance.