(SKY NEWS) — A man has been charged over the kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl and the murders of both her parents.
Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, was arrested after Jayme Closs – who had been missing for three months after her parents were killed in their home – was found in a Wisconsin town.
Police had been searching for the girl since October after discovering someone had broken into her family home and shot dead her parents, while the teenager was nowhere to be seen.
Investigators believe the couple were killed so the intruder could abduct Jayme.
She managed to escape on foot from the cabin she was held in and was found wandering in the small town of Gordon, 65 miles north of her hometown of Barron, by a woman who was out walking her dog.
The woman began knocking on a neighbour’s door shouting: “This is Jayme Closs, call 911!”
The suspect was arrested and taken into custody 11 minutes later, police said.
Jayme was reported to be skinny and dirty, wearing shoes too big for her feet.
FBI special agent Justin Tolomeo told reporters: “We’re so pleased to stand here today and celebrate Jayme’s recovery… we often need a big break and it was Jayme herself who provided that.”
He also thanked the Barron community for “never giving up on Jayme”.
Barron’s schools chief Diane Tremblay told a news conference it was a “glorious day” and that there was “so much love and hugs in our district” following 88 days of “hopes and prayers”.
Details of the case indicated that Jayme had been snatched minutes after an intruder came into her house and murdered her parents, damaging little else in the family home.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said the suspect had taken “proactive steps” to hide his identity.
Peter Kaskinskas, who looked after Jayme after she was found before police arrived, said she declined food and water and appeared “pretty flat” emotionally.
He said she said she did not know where she was or anything about the man arrested, though it seemed she had been in the area for most of her disappearance.
Jayme’s aunt Sue Allard told local media she could barely express her joy on hearing the news.
“Praise the Lord,” she said. “It’s the news we’ve been waiting on for three months. I can’t wait to get my arms around her. I just can’t wait.”
Mr Kaskinskas told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost.
“My jaw just went to the floor.”
Among those celebrating Jayme’s return was Elizabeth Smart, who was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 as a 14-year-old. She was rescued nine months later after witnesses recognised her abductors from an episode of America’s Most Wanted.
The activist wrote on Instagram: “What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!! No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED and whatever other details may surface the most important will still remain that she is alive.”
Barron, which has a population of around 645 people, is in a heavily forested region close to Lake Superior.
The town’s mayor Ron Fladten said the news was a “great result” and that he had been “praying daily” for the safe return of Jayme.
“I hope that she’s in good shape,” he said. “She’s no doubt been through just a terrible ordeal. I think everybody wishes her a good recovery and a happy life going into the future.”