Jeanne Nutter was walking her dog Thursday near the remote northwestern Wisconsin town of Gordon when she spotted a girl, alone, without a coat or gloves in the January chill.
“Did she run away?” Nutter asked herself, according to CNN affiliate WCCO. “Did somebody dump her off here?”
The girl came closer.
“I’m lost and I don’t’ know where I am and I need help,” the teen said.
Now Nutter could make out the face.
“I’m Jayme,” said the girl, appearing frightened but calm.
With those words, the frantic search for Jayme Closs 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 Gordon, about 70 miles north of where she was last seen.
Nutter knew the name. She also knew the missing girl must have fled in a hurry. She held onto her. She assured her that she would find a nearby resident to call police.
“You’re going to be OK,” Nutter said, according to WCCO. “You’re going to be safe. You’re going to be fine.”
Kristin Kasinskas heard someone pounding on the door of the home. 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, Kasinskas told CNN. “Call 911 right now.”
As the stunned neighbors stood at the door, Jayme did not say a word.
She asked a dog walker for help
As they waited for authorities, Jayme declined food and water, and instead met the family’s puppy.
“I thought overall she looked good,” Kasinskas said. “I mean we were thinking that Jayme wasn’t alive. I think just seeing her was a wonderful thing.”
“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Nutter told CNN on Friday. “I’m just so thrilled for her family and her grandfather.”
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 killing 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!”
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Sheena Jones, Jason Hanna and Melanie Whitley contributed to this report.