GORDON, Wisc. — Kristin Kasinskas was at home Thursday evening when someone pounded on the door. When she opened it, her neighbor was standing next to a skinny girl with unkempt hair and oversized shoes.
“This is Jayme Closs!” the neighbor said, according to an account Kasinskas gave to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. “Call 911!”
With those words, the frantic search for Jayme ended 87 days after she vanished on October 15, the same night police found her parents dead in their home near Barron, Wisconsin. She was located Thursday near the remote, far northwestern Wisconsin town of Gordon, about 70 miles north of where she was last seen.
As the stunned neighbors stood at the door, Jayme did not say a word.
She asked a dog walker for help
The neighbor was walking her dog when Jayme approached and asked for help, according to Kasinskas, a local teacher.
The woman was so unnerved, she did not want to be identified, the Star Tribune reported. She told the paper that when Jayme walked up to her, she immediately knew who she was.
They rushed to the nearest home, which happened to be that of Kasinskas. As they waited for authorities, Jayme declined food and water, and instead met the family’s puppy.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost,” Kristin’s husband, Peter Kasinskas, told the paper.
Kristin Kasinskas said Jayme told her she had been held in the Gordon area — near Kasinskas’ home — by someone who killed her parents on the night she disappeared.
“She said to us that, ‘This person killed my parents and took me,'” Kasinskas told CNN.
“She said that this person usually hides her or hides her when others are near, or when he has to leave the household,” the woman said. “She did not go into detail about how she got out of the house or anything like that.”
Jayme was located shortly before 5 p.m., and a suspect was arrested 10 minutes later, authorities said. Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, of Gordon, faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the murder of Closs’ parents and one count of kidnapping, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Friday.
Good news after a day of rumors
Jayme was taken to the hospital after she was found, her aunt, Sue Allard, said.
“Oh my gosh,” Allard told CNN affiliate WCCO between sobs. “There was rumors earlier today, and I prayed and prayed and they come to not be true … I thought today was going to be the day, and then I find out two hours later that she’s found and I just cannot believe this.”
Jayme’s cousin, Seara Closs, shared her relief on social media.
“She is alive and on her way home from the bottom of my heart thank you all for the help!” she posted on Facebook. “I can never repay each and everyone one of you for posting and sharing and contributing to the search of my cousin Jayme Closs!”
Mysterious 911 call
Since right after Jayme disappeared, authorities had said they believed she was in danger. Her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their home the same night she went missing.
Investigators say a mysterious 911 call led deputies to discover the bodies. When the dispatcher called back the number, a voicemail greeting indicated the phone belonged to Denise Closs. The log does not say who made the 911 call, but the dispatcher heard yelling in the background.
Police arrived to find the door kicked in but no one was there. Investigators had said they believed Jayme was at home during the shooting.
Months of tips and searches
For months, thousands of people joined search parties as investigators received thousands of tips. The FBI offered a cash reward for information on her whereabouts, and authorities urged hunters in the area to be on the lookout for clues.
The searches and thousands of tips had not yielded any clues before Thursday. But Fitzgerald, the sheriff, said they never got tired of looking for Jayme.
“We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise,” he said Thursday in a statement. He also thanked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the scene when Jayme was found, and other law enforcement agencies that helped in the search.
Fitzgerald noted that the case had “been very trying on the family so please respect their privacy and we reunite them later tonight.”
“From the bottom of my heart,” the sheriff added, “THANK YOU!”
Who is the suspect?
Patterson is also suspected of killing Jayme’s parents in their Wisconsin home in October.
Here’s what we know about him:
• Patterson is a 21-year-old from Gordon, Wisconsin, about 70 miles north of Barron, not far from where Jayme lived with her parents.
• Patterson was taken into custody Thursday after the girl gave investigators a description of his vehicle, according to Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec. A short time later, a patrol officer found a vehicle that matched the description and pulled it over. Patterson was arrested.
• He’s being held in the Barron County Jail. He faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the killings of Jayme’s parents, James and Denise Closs, and one count of kidnapping, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters.
• Patterson “planned his actions and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public,” Fitzgerald said.
• Fitzgerald said investigators believe Jayme was Patterson’s target and that the suspect had no earlier contact with her family.
• Patterson had “zero” criminal history locally or in Wisconsin, Fitzgerald said. Authorities are not looking for any additional suspects.