BARRON — Kidnapped 13-year-old Jayme Closs has been recovered and is in the process of being returned to Barron.
The Barron County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference Friday morning announcing her return and the arrest of a 21-year-old man who is charged with her kidnapping.
Jake Thomas Patterson was arrested about 11 minutes after after Jayme sought help from a woman walking her dog in a rural area near the town of Gordon, about 60 miles north of Barron in Douglas County.
Patterson had no criminal record, and lived a short distance from where Jayme was found.
Jayme was to be reunited with family members in Barron County Friday morning or afternoon, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
Jayme disappeared from her family's home near Barron after her parents were killed Oct. 15.
Fitzgerald said at the announcement that the investigation was still ongoing, but thanked the many law enforcement agencies and the community for their help bring Jayme home.
“Last night our collective promise was fulfilled,” Fitzgerald said.
Authorities believe that Jayme was the target of the attack and that Patterson had not had prior contact with the family, though he does have a tie to the Barron area.
Fitzgerald said Closs was taken to a hospital but has since been medically cleared and released. She was being interviewed by law enforcement, the sheriff said.
According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Justin Tolomeo, the case was challenging due to the planning by Patterson and steps that he took to avoid detection.
Tolomeo said that Jayme herself brought the situation to an end.
“It is an incredible day,” Tolomeo said.
Jayme went missing after police discovered someone had broken into the family's home outside Barron and fatally shot her parents, James and Denise Closs. The Barron County Sheriff's Department believed the girl had likely been abducted.
In the time since, investigators have received around 3,500 tips, and are continuing to investigate, serving search warrants Friday.
Fitzgerald said that the interest in the case and the concern of the larger community helped lead to Jayme being recognized immediately by the woman she approached.
Fitzgerald also credited Jayme with her own recovery.
“It’s amazing,” Fitzgerald said. “The will of that 13-year-old girl to survive and escape.”
Before dawn Friday in Barron, the Dairy Queen sign was flashing, "Welcome home Jayme. Thank you for bringing her home."
Some of the cars passing the Barron County Justice Center honked as they drove by, apparently in celebration of Jayme's return.
Residents of an area of woods and cabins about 9 miles east of Gordon described the dramatic moment when Jayme was found. Kristin Kasinskas, a teacher at the nearby Northwood School who lives on S. Eau Claire Acres Circle with her husband, Peter, and children, said that around 4 p.m., a neighbor walking a dog frantically knocked on their door.
Standing with her was a skinny, dirty girl with matted hair, wearing shoes too big for her feet.
"This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!" the neighbor said.
Jayme was quiet, her emotions "pretty flat," Peter Kasinskas said.
The news that Jayme had been found alive swept quickly through Barron, a town of 3,300, and well beyond its borders. There were tears of joy, gasps of disbelief and shouts of gratitude.
Jasmine Hightower, manager of the McDonald's in Barron, said people are full of unanswered questions, but that for now they're just happy to hear that Jayme is alive.
Pamela Currans, who was working the Thursday night shift at the Subway in town, said she never gave up hope. "I stayed positive," she said. "I knew she would be found alive."
When she learned the news, Currans said she cried.
"Tears of joy," she quickly added. "This is very awesome."