A girl wearing a hooded sweatshirt, slacks, socks that didn’t look like they fit properly, and with no hat or coat despite the winter weather, approached a woman she didn’t know in her driveway in a small Wisconsin town on Thursday afternoon.
"I'm lost, I don't know where I am," the girl said, according to the woman. "I'm Jayme," the girl said.
"I recognized her immediately," the woman, Jeanne Nutter, said Friday.
It was Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old girl who had been the subject of an intense search since her parents were found fatally shot in their home on Oct. 15 in Barron, around 60 miles to the south of the town of Gordon where she approached Nutter on Thursday.
Nutter said she had just finished her regular walk with her dog when Jayme came up to her.
"She said, 'I don't know where I am' a couple of times," said Nutter, who said she worked as a social worker in child protection for about 30 years.
The discovery of Jayme alive marked a dramatic end to a search that had stretched on for nearly three months. A 21-year-old suspect with no known prior contact with Jayme or her family has been arrested and is accused of killing Jayme’s parents, James Closs, 56, and his wife Denise, 46, with a shotgun and kidnapping the girl.
Nutter said she knew she needed to get the girl help and out of the cold. They went first to one house where no one was home. Then they went to the home of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas because Nutter knew Kristin was a teacher and would be home.
"I said, 'You need to let me in and call 911, because I believe I have Jayme with me,'" Nutter said.
The couple was dumbfounded.
"I thought I was dreaming, honestly," Peter Kasinskas said Friday. "When I saw her standing there, like in my kitchen — I was just cleaning fish from a trip — and all of the sudden she's standing there in front of me, saying ‘This is Jayme Closs, call 911.'"
"Like I've told everybody, it was like I was seeing a ghost in person," Kasinskas said. "Because I, I didn't think she was alive."
The girl looked around 15 to 20 pounds lighter than in photos distributed by police during the intensive search for her, Peter Kasinskas said. "She was just really, really wore out," he said.
The suspect, Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, who lives in Gordon and who has no known criminal history in Wisconsin, was not at home when Jayme escaped from what was described as a house in a rural area, and she gave a description of the vehicle the suspect would be driving, according to officials.
When Patterson was arrested he was apparently driving around looking for the girl, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Friday.
At the Kasinskas home, when they were on the phone with 911, Jayme gave the color of the car the suspect would be driving and the couple gave that information to the dispatcher.
"Kristin was asking her, 'Did you know who did this? And she said, 'yes'. She said his name and she said, ‘He killed my parents and took me,'" Peter Kasinskas said.
"That's what she said. And it's just, I don’t how to respond to that, you know," he said. "It's just unreal."
Sheriff Fitzgerald said Patterson used a shotgun to shoot open the door of the family home, killed Jayme's parents and kidnapped her, and that he took pains to try and avoid leaving evidence at the scene, such as by shaving his head ahead of time so he would not leave any hairs there.
Fitzgerald said that he did not know how Jayme escaped the home, but he said she was on foot and the home was not far from where she was found.
"Jayme is the hero in this case, there's no question about it," Fitzgerald said. "She's the one that helped break this case."
Jayme was reunited with her aunt on Friday, the sheriff said.
"I'm so happy," her aunt Jennifer Smith said in a statement Thursday upon news of Jayme's being found. "Lots of happy tears and so thankful. And I thank everyone that didn't give up hope and for all the prayers!!"
Patterson, an unemployed man from Gordon, faces charges of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Jayme’s parents, James Closs, 56, and his wife Denise, 46, as well as kidnapping,
Nutter said that when law enforcement arrived and took charge of the child, “I told her she was going to be OK, and I gave her a hug."