GORDON, Wis. — A 21-year-old man was being held in the disappearance of a teenager, Jayme Closs, who had vanished from her rural Wisconsin home on the same fall night that her parents were found fatally shot there.
Jake T. Patterson, 21, was being held pending formal charges of murder and kidnapping, the authorities announced on Friday morning, as family members and neighbors of Jayme expressed shock and relief that the girl had been found alive nearly three months after she had gone missing. The disappearance had set off a massive, lengthy police hunt that ended on Thursday afternoon when the girl escaped and was found wandering on a road by a passer-by near Gordon, about an hour north of her Barron County home.
Jayme, 13, was discovered by a woman walking her dog, the authorities said, and the girl’s descriptions of her abductor’s car quickly led officials to locate and arrest the suspect. The authorities said Jayme had been taken against her will and had escaped from the home where she had been held.
“In cases like this we often need a big break, and it was Jayme herself who gave us that break,” said Justin Tolomeo, the special agent in charge of the Milwaukee division of the F.B.I.
Mr. Patterson had no known criminal record in Wisconsin, the authorities said.
Chris Fitzgerald, the Barron County sheriff, said, “The suspect planned his actions, and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement.”
The sheriff added: “We do not believe at this time that the suspect had any contact with the family.” Formal charges were expected to be filed next week, a prosecutor said.
Jayme, a middle school student whose disappearance set off waves of fear and speculation around Barron, was hospitalized and was being evaluated, her uncle, Jeff Closs, said on Thursday night. “We’re very happy that she is alive,” he wrote in a text message. “We don’t know much else.”
Just when the family started to give up hope, Mr. Closs said, “we got the greatest news ever.”
Jayme had been missing since Oct. 15, when the authorities found her parents, James and Denise Closs, dead in their home; the front door was open and Jayme was gone. The double killing of the Closses, a quiet couple who worked at the local turkey plant, and the mystery of their daughter’s disappearance riveted Barron, a town of just over 3,400. A manhunt drew more than 2,100 tips and thousands of volunteers. All over town, shops and homes hung green ribbons bearing the words “Find Jayme Closs.” The local police force of 78 swelled as a corps of 200 federal, state and local officers joined a hunt that went on day and night.
Her disappearance also drew national attention, and her name topped the F.B.I.’s missing persons list as the reward for her recovery grew to $50,000.
A couple who lives in the area, Kristin and Peter Kasinskas, told The Minneapolis Star Tribune that Jayme appeared on their doorstep about 4 p.m. Thursday, after she had been found by one of their neighbors who was out walking her dog. The neighbor pounded on the family’s door, the couple said. A skinny girl with matted hair stood by her side, wearing shoes too big for her feet.
“This is Jayme Closs!” the neighbor said. “Call 911!”
As they waited for the authorities to arrive, the Kasinskases offered Jayme food and water and introduced her to their puppy. They said Jayme told them she did not know where she was, the newspaper reported.
“It was like I was seeing a ghost,” Peter Kasinskas told The Star Tribune. “It was scary and awesome at the same time. My jaw just went to the floor.”
Seara Closs, Jayme’s cousin, wrote on Facebook: “She is alive and on her way home, From the bottom of my heart thank you all for the help!!!”
An aunt, Lynn Closs, also posted as the news was spreading. Her message was simple: “We have her.”
In a statement on Instagram, Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her home as a teenager in 2002 and held for nine months, called Jayme’s rescue a miracle, and said she was praying for a “joyous reunion” for Jayme and her extended family.
“No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED,” she said. “Whatever other details may surface, the most important will still remain that she is alive.”