Authorities believe a 21-year-old man killed a Wisconsin couple in a scheme to kidnap their teenage daughter, then held the girl captive for three months before she managed to escape and reach safety as he searched for her.
Jayme Closs, 13, was skinny, disheveled and wearing shoes too big for her when she approached a stranger and pleaded for help Thursday in the small north woods town of Gordon, where police said she was being held by Jake Thomas Patterson.
Within minutes, Patterson was pulled over and jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges for what authorities said was his meticulously planned shotgun attack at the girl’s home in October.
The news that Jayme was safe set off joy and relief 60 miles away in her hometown of Barron, population 3,300, ending an all-out search that gripped the state, with many people fearing the worst the longer she was missing.
“My legs started to shake. It was awesome. The stress, the relief—it was awesome,” Barron County Sheriff Fitzgerald said, describing the moment he learned Jayme had been found.
Jayme told one of the neighbors in Gordon who took her in that she had walked away from a cabin where she had been held captive.
“She said that this person’s name was Jake Patterson, ‘he killed my parents and took me,’” said another neighbor, Kristin Kasinskas. “She did not talk about why or how. She said she did not know him.”
The sheriff said investigators are trying to figure out what happened to Jayme during her captivity and why she was seized and gave no details on how she escaped except to say Patterson was not home at the time. He said there is no evidence Patterson knew Jayme or her family or had been in contact with her on social media.
“I know all of you are searching for the answer why any of this happened,” Fitzgerald said. “Believe me, so are we.”
The sheriff said he did not know if Jayme had been physically abused but that she was hospitalized overnight for observation and released. Investigators were still interviewing her, and she was “doing as well as circumstances allow,” he said.
Kasinskas called 911 to report the girl had been found after another neighbor out walking her dog encountered Jayme and brought her to Kasinskas’ house. Patterson was apparently out looking for her when he was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy based on a description of his vehicle from Jayme, authorities said.
He was scheduled for an initial court appearance Monday. It was not immediately known whether the unemployed Patterson had an attorney.
Jayme’s grandfather, Robert Naiberg, said he had been praying for months for the call he received about his granddaughter.
“I thought, ‘Good for her she escaped,’” he said.
Jayme disappeared from her home near Barron after someone blasted his way into her home and shot her parents, James and Denise Closs, on Oct. 15. The sheriff said investigators believe Patterson killed them to abduct the girl.
Patterson took such measures as shaving his head beforehand to avoid leaving evidence at the scene, the sheriff said. A shotgun similar to the one used was recovered from the home where Jayme was believed held, according to Fitzgerald.
Property records show the cabin belonged to Patterson’s father at the time of Jayme’s disappearance.
Patterson worked for one day in 2016 at the same Jennie-O turkey plant in Barron as Jayme’s parents, Jennie-O Turkey Store President Steve Lykken said. Patterson quit, saying he was moving from the area, Lykken said. But the sheriff said it did not appear Patterson interacted with the couple during his brief time there.
He had no criminal record, according to the sheriff. He graduated in 2015 from Northwood High School, where he was on the quiz bowl team and was a good student with a “great group of friends,” said District Superintendent Jean Serum.
Kasinskas said she taught Patterson science in middle school but added: “I don’t really remember a ton about him.”
“He seemed like a quiet kid,” she said. “I don’t recall anything that would have explained this, by any means.”
The woman who first spotted Jayme on Thursday, Jeanne Nutter, said she was walking her dog along a rural road when a girl called out to her, grabbed her and revealed her name.
“She just yelled, ‘Please help me! I don’t know where I am! I’m lost!’” Nutter, a social worker who spent years working in child protection, told The Associated Press.
Nutter took her to the home of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas. Jayme was quiet, her emotions “pretty flat,” Peter Kasinskas said. From what she told them, they believed she was in Gordon, a logging town of about 650 people, for most of the time she was missing.
Over the past few months, detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches for Jayme, including one that drew 2,000 volunteers but yielded no clues.
“It was only a few months ago that we as a community gathered to pray for Jayme’s safe return at Barron High School,” Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright said Friday. “God has answered those prayers.”
In November, the sheriff said he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Jayme, including the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. Smart was rescued nine months later after witnesses recognized her abductors on an “America’s Most Wanted” episode.
Smart said in a telephone interview that Jayme’s story is “why we can never give up hope on any missing child.”
Estimates for the Blain Gilbertson Family Heritage Pedestrian Bridge—the footbridge that soon will span the Rock River downtown—show construction will cost nearly $500,000 less than originally planned.
Monday night, the Janesville City Council will consider approving a $1.45 million contract with Kraemer North America for bridge construction.
The project is scheduled to begin in June and could be completed by December, Engineering Director Mike Payne said.
The bridge itself is being paid for through ARISEnow, a public-private group promoting downtown revitalization. The city will kick in roughly $92,000 for infrastructure work on the river’s east side, which will undergo a face-lift in 2020.
ARISEnow already has transferred funds to the city to finance the bridge. Janesville will not need to borrow money and get reimbursed by the organization later, Payne said.
Renderings for the 230-foot bridge, released last month, show a sail-like structure at the center. It will cover a widened middle section that will give people room to sit and linger above the river.
Design consultants initially thought the bridge would cost $1.9 million. They based that on the ongoing Milwaukee Street bridge replacement by Zenith Tech, a company whose bid for the footbridge landed squarely on the $1.9 million estimate, Payne said.
The city’s portion will expedite some improvements related to the 2020 east-side project. It will coordinate electrical, sewer and parking lot work with bridge construction so it doesn’t need to redo anything next year, he said.
Payne wasn’t sure if the bridge would have to close once the 2020 work begins.
The 2020 project will complement work already finished on the west side of the river.
The east side will feature additional “park amenities” and a reconfigured parking lot along South Water Street, he said.
The earliest possible starting date for the footbridge is June 3. Crews need to wait until most of the Milwaukee Street bridge is replaced so there is enough to room to stage construction equipment, he said.
The council also will consider approving two other contracts Monday—one for bike trail repairs and another for utility upgrades.
A $1.65 million contract with Bjoin Limestone will repair or replace nearly 500 sanitary, storm and water structures in conjunction with the annual street repair program. Those upgrades are scattered throughout the city, Payne said.
W.N. Yoss Construction would repair a section of bike trail near Rockport and Afton roads for $60,000.
What looks like a small toaster is now providing an extra layer of security at Milton School District buildings.
This week, the district began testing Raptor ID, a visitor identification management system. The system will be fully implemented Jan. 22, said Jerry Schuetz, director of administrative operations.
The Raptor ID device scans photo IDs and cross-references visitors’ names and dates of birth against the national sex offender registry, Schuetz said.
Visitors to Milton facilities will be required to show a photo ID with a date of birth upon entrance. Visitors without IDs can give their names and dates of birth to an administrative assistant, who will manually enter the information into the system, Schuetz said.
The system will replace the district’s paper sign-in log and will only be used during school hours, Schuetz said.
Those who pass the security check will be given a personalized visitor’s badge and allowed into the school.
If the system flags a concern, Schuetz and the building’s administrator will be sent text messages with further information. Administrators will then determine how to handle the visitor.
One solution would be to escort the visitor through the building. Nobody on the sex-offender registry would be allowed to be with children unsupervised, Schuetz said.
The system does not check for active warrants or other criminal history, Schuetz said.
Raptor ID was funded by a state Department of Justice grant awarded to the district this summer. Initial costs for installation and equipment total $27,500. The system includes an annual licensing cost of $4,000, which will be paid out of the district’s technology budget in future years, Schuetz said.
Schuetz and administrative assistant Kim Krause first heard about the system at a conference. Schuetz said the system is user friendly and was the least expensive of available security systems.
The Edgerton and Stoughton school districts already use Raptor ID. Schuetz said parents have already expressed thanks for the additional security measure.
All district buildings require visitors to buzz in at the doors for access during school hours and will continue to do so. The district will continue mandatory background checks for volunteers before they are allowed to work, Schuetz said.
Only a few blocks from the National Mall, amid a cluster of nondescript buildings, more than a dozen prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have followed an unusual routine as they toil away on the Russia investigation.
When they leave the office at night, they often wonder if it could be their last day on the job, according to an attorney familiar with their work. Fearful that President Donald Trump will try to shut down the sprawling criminal investigation, they’ve been compiling and writing their conclusions as they go, the attorney said.
Even if Trump doesn’t try to fire Mueller and disband his team—something he has threatened several times—the president’s lawyers have indicated they’ll try to keep the public from learning whatever the special counsel’s office has discovered. They’ve repeatedly said some information might be covered by executive privilege, the legal claim that safeguards the confidentiality of a president’s private conversations.
If Mueller tries to include in a final report details gleaned from White House documents or interviews with administration officials, “we specifically reserved our right to object,” said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who represents Trump.
The president pointedly refused on Thursday to say whether any report from Mueller should be made public, telling reporters, “We’ll have to see.”
It’s unclear exactly when Mueller’s investigation will end, and the special counsel still has not secured the presidential interview he’s been seeking for more than a year. Trump submitted some written answers shortly before Thanksgiving; Giuliani said prosecutors’ subsequent request to ask more questions in writing and in person was refused before Christmas.
Since then, he said, there has been no communication with the special counsel’s office.
“There’s nothing much to talk to them about,” Giuliani said.
Recently, however, there have been indications the endgame could be drawing near. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, for example, has told associates he expects to step down shortly after the Senate confirms William P. Barr as the new attorney general. That could come within weeks; Barr’s confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin Tuesday. Rosenstein has been supervising Mueller’s work and does not want to leave his post until the special counsel is wrapping up.
Whenever Mueller does finish his work, it will kick off a new phase in the legal and political fights over the Russia investigation. The president’s legal team is preparing its own report rebutting whatever Mueller concludes; Trump tweeted last month that they’d already finished 87 pages. Giuliani said how much was released depended on what the special counsel concluded.
“If they exonerate him,” he said, “we’ll just say congratulations.”
Meanwhile, emboldened Democrats who took control of the House of Representatives in the last election are laying the groundwork for their own investigations and potentially explosive public hearings.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7, a month before he begins a three-year prison sentence for crimes that include lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal that Trump sought while running for president.
Cohen also has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations involving hush money payments to women who said they had affairs with Trump, payments prosecutors said were directed by Trump.
The first battle could be over how much becomes public from Mueller’s investigation, which focuses on ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia and whether the president obstructed justice.
The last time a special prosecutor’s report was so hotly anticipated, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr provided a lengthy and salacious recounting of President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Starr, however, was operating under a different set of rules that no longer exist, and he was required to submit his conclusions directly to Congress. Under the rules governing Mueller’s investigation, the special counsel only needs to provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining his decisions at the conclusion of the investigation. The attorney general by then will likely be Barr, a longtime friend of Mueller’s but also a Trump nominee who has expressed skepticism about some aspects of the investigation.
That doesn’t mean Mueller’s findings won’t be released in some form. Prosecutors could explain more of their case in additional indictments—33 people have already faced charges or pleaded guilty, and court filings have often included extensive details. They could also ask the grand jury to issue its own report.
In addition, the attorney general is required to notify Congress if he overrules any decisions by the special counsel, such as a request to issue particular subpoenas and indictments. And the attorney general can “determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest.”
Democratic congressional leaders have already made clear they will demand that the report be turned over to them.
“Bottom line: the President can try to hide the Mueller Report. He will lose to the public’s right to know,” tweeted Neal Katyal, who served as solicitor general under President Barack Obama and wrote the current special counsel regulations.
If a report is destined to become public, there will also be fights over what is included. Intelligence agencies might want to redact sensitive information involving communications intercepts or overseas sources.
Trump’s lawyers are prepared to argue that executive privilege will require additional redactions. The potential clash is rooted in the early days of the special counsel investigation, when the White House voluntarily agreed to turn over thousands of pages of documents and make officials available for voluntary interviews.
By doing that, Mueller received faster access to the facts he was seeking, while the president’s lawyers said they maintained their right to claim executive privilege down the road. They argue that, since Mueller is technically part of the executive branch, they can still fight the release of information to Congress or the public.
“Just because a document goes from the White House to the Justice Department does not mean privilege doesn’t stay attached,” said Jim Schultz, former deputy counsel in Trump’s White House who now works at the Cozen O’Connor law firm in Philadelphia and Washington.
A claim of executive privilege could have the biggest impact on the public’s ability to learn about Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction because many events under scrutiny happened after Trump took office.
Blocking the release of a report, however, could cause a political uproar that would be counterproductive for Trump.
“It’s very complicated for the president to fight the release of the report,” said Anne Milgram, a former federal prosecutor and New Jersey attorney general who is now a New York University law professor. “If it vindicated him, why wouldn’t he let it out?”
“If the report doesn’t go public,” she added, “the president can’t put this behind him.”
Mueller has not said anything publicly about how he plans to conclude his investigation or when that could happen. His silence has created a guessing game about the probe’s timeline; many of the rumored due dates have come and gone without any end in sight.
“I thought they would finish by the end of the summer,” Giuliani said. “And then I thought they would finish before the election. I can’t imagine what’s taking them so long.”
Ending the investigation might mean Mueller has to accept that he won’t get to interview Trump himself. The president has not received a subpoena to force his testimony before a grand jury, Giuliani said.
So far, Trump has only answered written questions about events that took place before the election, meaning Mueller hasn’t had an opportunity to ask him about topics that could be relevant to an obstruction case.
“I’m really at a loss to determine why he hasn’t” subpoenaed Trump already, said Harry Litman, a former federal prosecutor. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Although the president’s lawyers would undoubtedly fight a subpoena in court, “I think it’s really pretty clear (Mueller) would win,” Litman said.