Months after she went missing when her parents were killed, Jayme Closs was back in her hometown Friday after escaping her abductor and getting neighbors to call 911, a Wisconsin sheriff said.
A smiling Closs, 13, is now with an aunt and has been reunited with her dog, according to a photo given to the media.
“She is doing great,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told “Anderson Cooper Full Circle.”
The young girl was rescued Thursday walking down a road in a rural area in northwestern Wisconsin after she fled a home where law enforcement says she was kept by Jake Thomas Patterson, 21.
“Jayme was the hero in the case. Jayme was the champion that finally said enough is enough,” Fitzgerald said. “We can’t be more proud of Jayme.”
Closs was released from a Minnesota hospital Friday and is staying in Barron, Wisconsin, with an aunt.
Patterson is scheduled to go to court Monday where he is expected to be formally charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.
Authorities say they are still puzzled as to why the suspect allegedly went to Barron to kidnap Jayme from the family home, where her parents were found dead, killed with a shotgun.
“I don’t understand it yet myself,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the million-dollar question, is why.”
Both Jayme and the suspect have made initial comments to authorities, he said. Authorities are now giving her time to settle into her new home before they question her again, the sheriff added.
‘I’m Jayme,” girl told woman who found her
Jayme, who was reported missing October 15, was discovered Thursday afternoon two counties and 70 miles to the north of Barron, outside the rural community of Gordon, by a vacationer walking her dog, authorities said.
The sheriff said Patterson had been keeping Jayme against her will at his home.
A woman who has a cabin nearby was walking along the isolated road when she saw Jayme on the cold evening, just about dusk, without a coat or gloves.
The girl told Jeanne Nutter, “I’m lost, and I don’t know where I am, and I need help.”
She said, ‘I’m Jayme,’ the woman told CNN affiliate WCCO.
Nutter took Jayme to the closest house, the home of Kristin and Peter Kasinkas, and they called 911.
Shortly after law enforcement came for Jayme, they arrested Patterson in his vehicle, while he apparently was looking for the girl.
Authorities have recovered several guns, including a shotgun they think was used to blow open the front door of the Closs family home and used to kill James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46.
Investigators believe Jayme was at the home when her parents were killed, and that Patterson abducted her from there, Fitzgerald said.
There is no evidence in the early stages of the investigation that links Patterson to the parents or to Jayme, Fitzgerald said. He did work for one day at the same meat products plant where James and Denise were long-time employees, but authorities said they did not cross paths in Patterson’s short time there.
Barron, a town of less than 3 square miles, has a population of about 3,300, according to US Census figures. It is about a one-hour, 50-minute drive from Minneapolis, and is about 50 minutes from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
‘It appears he concealed her from … his friends’
Fitzgerald said it’s not clear whether Patterson, who is unemployed, owns the home, or how he kept Jayme there.
“It appears he concealed her from other people … his friends,” Fitzgerald said.
Also unclear is why he allegedly targeted her in the first place. The sheriff said it appeared Patterson had no previous social media contact with the teen, Fitzgerald said.
About three years ago, Patterson worked at the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant in Barron – where Jayme’s parents were employed – and then quit, saying he was moving, company President Steve Lykken said.
He may have worked at another business in Barron but that hasn’t been confirmed, the sheriff said.
Patterson was in the county jail Friday and is keeping quiet after talking on the day of his arrest.
Jayme says abductor killed her parents, woman who helped her says
Investigators are trying to determine how Jayme escaped from Patterson’s home, Fitzgerald said.
Kristin Kasinskas, who helped report Jayme’s emergence to police Thursday, spoke to CNN on Friday about what happened.
Jayme approached Nutter around 4 p.m. Thursday and asked for help.
Nutter knew of the girl’s disappearance, which was reported nationally, and intensely so in the state. Those two then rushed to Kasinskas’ home, which was nearby.
Nutter said, “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911 right now!” Kasinskas said. Police were called – but before they arrived, Jayme told them that she’d 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’s Poppy Harlow. “She said that this person usually hides her or hides her when others are near, or when he has to leave the household. She did not go into detail about how she got out of the house or anything like that.”
The girl appeared unkempt and thinner than in photos publicly released, Kasinskas said.
“She looked … kind of in rough shape. … I think she was doing OK despite the circumstances,” she said.
Jayme provided a description of Patterson’s vehicle. Shortly after the 911 call, a sheriff’s patrol sergeant found the vehicle, pulled it over and took Patterson into custody, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said.
Kasinskas said she knew of Patterson but didn’t know him well.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Sheena Jones, Faith Karimi, Dakin Andone and Melanie Whitley contributed to this report.