Why was Jayme Closs targeted?
That was among the questions still unanswered Friday as a relieved Wisconsin town and law enforcement celebrated the escape of the 13-year-old girl after her nearly three months in captivity — and the arrest of the man now charged with kidnapping her and murdering her parents, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson.
Jayme was reunited with her aunt and released from the hospital Friday, according to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald in Wisconsin.
"Jayme is the hero in this case, there's no question about it," Fitzgerald said. "She is the one that helped us break this case."
Investigators believe Patterson specifically targeted Jayme but don't think he had prior contact with the Closs family before Oct. 15, when the suspect allegedly killed the teen's parents and abducted her.
“Nothing in this case shows the suspect knew anyone at the Closs home or at any time had contact with anyone in the Closs family,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald told reporters authorities don’t believe there was any social media connection between Patterson and Jayme, and are still working to find out how he became aware of her.
“The suspect had specific intentions to kidnap Jayme, and went to great lengths to prepare to take her,” Fitzgerald said.
About three years ago, Patterson was employed for less than two days in the same Jennie-O Turkey Store that James and Denise Closs worked at, but authorities do not believe he met the couple at that time.
Patterson, who is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of James Closs, 56, and his wife Denise, 46, as well as kidnapping, lives in tiny Gordon, Wisconsin — some 70 miles from Jayme's hometown of Barron.
Fitzgerald said detectives have only started to question the girl about her ordeal and when asked if Patterson had a police record, he said the suspect has "zero criminal history." But they believe the suspect intended to abduct Closs.
Patterson is believed to have used a shotgun to shoot open the door of the family’s home sometime before early Oct. 15 when 911 was called, and is believed to have used the shotgun to kill her parents, Fitzgerald said. A gun consistent with what was used at the scene, but tests will determine whether it was the weapon used, he said.
Patterson was arrested near his home in Douglas County, Wisconsin, and was being held in the Barron County Jail.
"This case from day one has concerned me," Fitzgerald said. "The volatility of this crime, to kill two people and kidnap a 13-year-old girl, is very concerning."
The desperate search for Jayme ended Thursday when the missing girl suddenly emerged from the woods near Gordon and asked a woman walking her dog for help, Fitzgerald said.
"In cases like this, we often need a big break and it was Jayme herself who gave us that break," FBI Special Agent in Charge R. Justin Tolomeo said.
Patterson was arrested after Jayme gave authorities a description of his vehicle, investigators said. He was pulled over and taken into custody shortly after she was found.
"It's amazing, the will of that girl to survive and escape," Fitzgerald said, adding that they are not looking for additional suspects.
The hunt for Jayme and her alleged abductor — an intense search that also included the FBI — began after the Barron County Sheriff's Department received a mysterious 911 call.
Four minutes later, the authorities arrived at the Closs home and found the parents slain — and no sign of the girl.
Almost immediately after Jayme disappeared, thousands of tips came flooding in, some from as far away as Miami. None proved credible at the time.
"I'm shocked," Kelly Engelhardt, Jayme's aunt, told NBC affiliate KARE on Thursday after her niece was found. "It's what we've prayed for every single day."
Jayme was taken to a hospital Thursday night and held overnight for observation.
The Gordon residents who encountered Jayme and called 911 described the teen as “unkempt” and said she allegedly spoke of being “locked up or hidden.”
"She didn't express any fear," Kristin Kasinskas told KARE on Thursday. Kristin and her husband, Peter Kasinskas, were home when they said a neighbor, Jeanne Nutter, pounded on their door shouting, “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!”