Jayme Closs spent Saturday morning like a normal teenage girl — curled up on the couch, playing with her dog, Molly, after getting a long-overdue good night’s rest, said her aunt, Jennifer Smith.
“She feels comfortable here. We had a good night,” Smith said of her niece, who was abducted from her rural Barron County home on Oct. 15 in a case that has garnered national headlines. “She slept good last night.”
Closs escaped from a home near the small town of Gordon in Douglas County Thursday and was found by Eau Claire resident Jeanne Nutter, who was walking her dog near her cabin there. The two then went to a neighbor’s home and Barron County law enforcement authorities were called.
Smith, whose sister was Jayme’s mother, Denise Closs, said she has always been close to Jayme. Smith, who lives in Barron, is Jayme’s godmother, and she saw Jayme frequently.
“We signed papers (Friday) for guardianship,” Smith said. “I did daycare for her, for 12 years of her life.”
Jayme has her own room already set up in Smith’s home.
“(My family) went and purchased her a new bed, new sheets to make her feel comfortable, and decorated it for her,” Smith said.
Smith said the curtains in her house are shut, trying to shield Jayme from media and others who want to talk to her. She added that they have police protection outside the home too.
Smith said there are so many questions she wants to ask Jayme, such as if the girl was in Gordon the entire 88 days since she was abducted, or how Jayme was kept captive, or how she managed to escape Thursday afternoon from her suspected captor, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson. But she isn’t pushing those topics.
“She’ll talk when she’s ready,” Smith said.
When asked if Jayme was aware about the media attention and all the thousands of volunteers who helped search for her, Smith wasn’t sure.
“That’s one of the questions I want to ask her. I don’t want to overwhelm her,” Smith said. “I showed her the (decorated) trees, and all the pictures on my phone, and the bridge that was lit up (as a vigil for her).”
Jayme has always been shy and a little quiet, so Smith is unconcerned that the teen isn’t talking much yet about the experience.
“When she’s ready to talk about things, she knows I’m here,” Smith said.
Smith first heard that Jayme Closs was possibly found on Thursday from a Twin Cities reporter, who had learned the good news and called Smith. Smith was unsure; only hours earlier, there was a report that Jayme was seen in Walworth County, only to have that rumor debunked.
However, about 20 minutes later, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald showed up at her house, with a wide smile on his face, and Smith knew immediately that this rumor was actually good news.
“I knew it had to be good news,” Smith said. “We broke down in happy tears.”
Smith was able to see Jayme a short time later. Officers warned her to not expect much of a reaction, because it is unclear what type of trauma Jayme has been through.
“When she saw me, she came fast to me, and gave me the hugest hug,” Smith said. “It was the best feeling ever.”
Jayme appears to be in good health, Smith added.
“We’ve got to put some meat on her bones. She’s a little thin,” Smith said. “She’ll be fine. She has some healing process to do.”
Part of that healing will be reuniting with family. The family of Jayme’s father, James Closs, was coming over to Smith’s house Saturday to see her for the first time since she escaped.
While Jayme was comfortable and relaxed in her aunt’s home Saturday, Smith said she is taking a casual approach to when they decide to go out, whether it is for a shopping trip or returning to school.
“We talked about school. She misses her friends,” Smith said. “We’ll do it when the time is right.”
Patterson is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, where he is likely to be charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of James and Denise Closs, as well as kidnapping. He is incarcerated in the Barron County Jail.
Smith said when she ran through the list of possible suspects over the past three months, she never considered a seemingly random stranger from Gordon who apparently targeted Jayme.
“I had not a clue,” Smith said. “It just blows my mind. There are no connections to the family whatsoever.”
Police arrested Patterson in his car, which Jayme had described, just down the road from the cabin in Gordon. He likely was out driving, looking for Jayme after she escaped.
Fitzgerald said that Patterson, who was unemployed, took “steps to conceal his identity” over the past three months, including shaving his head.
Patterson graduated from Northwood School District in Minong, where the school superintendent described him as quiet and a one-time member of the school quiz bowl team. Patterson’s parents divorced in 2007, court records show.
Records show that Patterson’s father, Patrick, transferred the title of the cabin where Closs was apparently held to Superior Choice Credit Union on Oct. 23, eight days after the Oct. 15 attack at the Closs family’s home, the Associated Press reported. The cabin was appraised at $79,300.