Jayme Closs was asleep at home just after midnight on Oct. 15, 2018, when the insistent barking of her dog, Molly, woke her up.
Gazing out her bedroom window, the 13-year-old saw a car pulling into the driveway of the home she shared with her parents, Jim and Denise Closs, outside of Barron, Wisconsin, and went to alert them. Jim rose and peered out through a window — and was struck dead by a gunshot fired from the other side of the door.
Hiding in a bathtub, where the mother wrapped her daughter “in a bear hug,” the horror wasn’t over for Jayme and Denise. The intruder broke through the locked bathroom door, killed Denise with a single shot to the head, then dragged Jayme to his car and threw her — bound with duct tape — into the trunk.
A 911 call placed by Denise had captured only yelling, drawing police to the bloody scene. But with Jayme gone, the search went into overdrive, as authorities swiftly declared the teen to be “missing and endangered” and issued an AMBER Alert.
For 88 days Jayme’s fate and whereabouts remained a mystery. The small community responded with prayers, social media campaigns and thousands of fliers ensuring that Jayme’s face was everywhere.
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On Jan. 10, that effort paid off after Jayme bravely acted to save herself, escaping her alleged abductor’s cabin where she’d been held hostage for nearly three months after the suspect told her he was leaving for five or six hours. Outside, alone and confused in the sparsely populated woods near Gordon, about 70 miles from her home, Jayme raced toward a woman walking a dog.
“I recognized her immediately,” the dog-walker, Jeanne Nutter, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “Her pictures are everywhere.”
“She was crying,” Nutter recalls. “She told me, ‘I’m Jayme.'”
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Police who responded passed Jayme’s alleged abductor on the roadway, apparently out looking for her. The suspect, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson — a man not on police’s radar, with no criminal record but allegedly with an obsession he’d developed for Jayme after he spotted her boarding a school bus, according to a criminal complaint — didn’t put up a fight when an officer stopped his car.
According to the complaint filed in Barron County Circuit Court, the suspect said he knew what the stop was about. “I did it,” he said.
Patterson is now in jail on a $5 million bail, charged with murder, kidnapping and armed burglary. He has not yet entered a plea.
Meanwhile, Jayme has reunited with the family and others who never gave up hope for her recovery and is starting to rebuild her life after loss and trauma.
Says Barron Mayor Ron Fladten: “Out of the evil of this horrific crime, still we can have a miracle.”