Jeanne Nutter says she hates the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” But a series of small events led her to be in the exactly right place, at the absolutely right time, to bump into Jayme Closs on the road outside her cabin in rural Gordon on Thursday afternoon.
Nutter, of Strum, left her home later that day than she wanted to. She wound up making several quick stops in Bloomer, Rice Lake and Minong before getting to her cabin. Her dog, Henry, was antsy and wanted to go for a walk. Nutter went to leave, only to return to the cabin to put on anti-slip cleats over her shoes.
“Why did I do all these silly little things before I went for my walk?” Nutter wondered Saturday morning. “I don’t know what happened with the stars, but they were aligned. I’m glad I dilly-dallied on my way up here.”
Nutter, who has a background as a social worker and who is a part-time academic advisor for the UW-Madison school of social work, was seemingly the perfect person to run into a distressed girl in need of immediate help.
“I’ve been a social worker since 1976,” she said. “I work on adoptions and with foster kids. It’s been my life, taking care of kids.”
Nutter is a part-time academic advisor for the school of social work in Eau Claire.
That background was essential when Closs approached her on the street, told her who she was, and that she needed help.
“I quickly went into my social worker skills, of getting this child to a safe place, but you stay calm,” Nutter said. “My first reaction was to scream and say, ‘You’re alive!’ I didn’t ask her questions, even though all those thoughts (of what happened to her) were in my head. I just reassured her as we walked toward (my neighbor’s) house. I just wanted her to be calm. That was my goal.”
Nutter explained that she didn’t want to go into her cabin because she’s not there all the time, and the suspect, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, might think to stop there to look for Jayme if he saw Nutter’s car.
“All this was going through my head, that my place wasn’t safe,” she said. “There is only one road, and I didn’t want to drag her through the woods.”
So Nutter decided to go to the nearby home of Pete and Kristin Kasinkas, who are year-round residents there. Fortunately, Kristin Kasinkas was home.
Kasinkas called 911, and eventually Nutter spoke to the dispatcher.
“I’m so glad they believed us,” Nutter said. “I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until the officers arrived. Don’t ask me how I stayed so calm.”
Nutter objected to a media report that described Jayme as being “dirty,” but she said the girl clearly wasn’t appropriately dressed for being outside and was obviously in distress.
“She looked thin,” Nutter said. “Wherever she was, she left in a hurry.”
Nutter said she’s glad that Patterson was quickly apprehended, and that Jayme is already safely back with her family.
“It was a privilege to have a little part in helping get her home,” she said.