Barron County Sheriff offers new details in Jayme Closs case; Closs reunited with familySubmitted: 01/11/2019
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director

Barron County Sheriff offers new details in Jayme Closs case; Closs reunited with family
Photos By Jennifer Smith

The Barron County Sheriff laid out new details surrounding Jayme Closs' disappearance, escape, and reunion with her family during the second of two press conferences late Friday afternoon.

Police arrested Jake Thomas Patterson on Thursday afternoon on suspicion of kidnapping the 13-year-old Barron teenager and murdering her parents, James and Diane, on Oct. 15, 2018.

Closs somehow escaped Patterson's custody while he was out of the house he was keeping her in near the Douglas County town of Gordon on Thursday.  Police believe Patterson was looking for Closs when deputies tracked down his car later that day.

Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Closs would be reunited with her family upon returning to Barron County on Friday afternoon, but would not release many details about Closs' condition.  Fitzgerald would not say if Closs had been sexually assaulted, only noting she was talking with police and family.

"Jayme is the hero in this case, there's no doubt about it," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald says Closs came out of the woods and approached a woman out walking in the Douglas County town of Gordon, about an hour north of her home in Barron. She identified herself as Jayme and the woman brought her to a neighbor where they called 911.

Police say Closs was taken to a hospital in Duluth, where she has been physically cleared.  Closs still needed to go through physical and mental evaluations, as well as further police interviews.

Closs gave a suspect and vehicle description to police, who then found Patterson in his car just down the road from where Closs was found. Douglas County Sheriff Thomas Dalbec says Patterson surrendered peacefully.

Police are holding him on suspicion of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.

Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright expects to file criminal charges next week.

"It was only a few months ago that we as a community gathered to pray for Jayme's safe return at Barron High School," Wright said. "God has answered those prayers."

Fitzgerald says Patterson has no criminal history in the state of Wisconsin. Police are not looking for any other suspects and there was no one else in Patterson's home at the time.

Closs' parents were found murdered in their Barron County home early on Oct. 15. They had both been shot to death. Closs had not been seen since and it was believed she was abducted.

Fitzgerald says detectives found a shotgun in a search of Patterson's home and car that was "consistent" with the type of weapon used in the homicide, but the state crime lab still needs to conduct tests on the gun.  Police believe a shotgun was used to shoot open the door to the Closs family home the night of the homicides and kidnapping.

"With regards to the suspect taking great efforts to minimize his forensic footprint at the crime scene, they include things like not leaving trace evidence by changing his physical appearance, like shaving his head not to leave hair behind," Fitzgerald said.

FBI Special Agent Justin Tolomeo says Patterson worked to conceal himself over the course of the past three months.

"In cases like this, we often need a big break. It was Jayme herself who gave us that break," Tolomeo said.

Fitzgerald says they don't believe Patterson knew the Jayme Closs or her parents, and had never had any contact with them, including via social media.  Patterson did work at the Jennie-O Turkey Plant in Barron about three years ago, where Closs' parents worked, but only for a few days, according to police.

Investigators are still unsure why Patterson would have taken Closs.

"Not knowing will plague us for some time, but again our goal is to continue to do what is right for Jamie and seek that justice is served," Fitzgerald said.

Detectives planned to search Patterson's home in Gordon for several more hours.  There are no active search warrants out in Barron County at this time.

Fitzgerald asked the media and public to respect the Closs family's privacy and also avoid going to Riverview Middle School, where Closs is a student.

"Will our district be holding a celebration or ceremony in the community of any sort? All I can say to that at this time is, you'd better believe it. You'd better believe it," Barron Area School District Admin. Diane Tremblay said. 

"Jayme, we missed you and we are so grateful that you are home."

Patterson will make his initial appearance via video in Barron County Circuit Court Monday, Jan. 14 at 3:30 p.m.  A criminal complaint is expected to be made public later that day.

Newswatch 12's Dakota Sherek and Rose McBride contributed to this report.

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