Eighty-seven days after she had been missing after being taken from her alleged abductor, Jayme Closs escaped and was found by a woman who was walking her dog.
Jeanne Nutter, the woman who found the 13-year-old in Gordon, Wisconsin, on Thursday, recalled being approached by a young girl who told her, “I’m lost, and I don’t know where I am, and I need help,” according to CNN.
Nutter recalled how Jayme “wasn’t dressed for the weather,” and was without a coat or gloves. “When she told me who she was, I figured she must have left in a hurry,” said the Eau Claire native, who has a cabin in the same area where Jayme was held captive by 21-year-old suspect Jake Thomas Patterson, who has been charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one of kidnapping.
“When she got near me and I could see who she was, she told me, ‘I’m Jayme,’ ” Nutter said.
Thursday was the first day of Nutter’s visit to her cabin with her husband.
“I just held onto her and I said, ‘We’re going to find somebody who’s home, we’re going to call the police. You’re going to be okay, you’re going to be safe, you’re going to be fine, you’re going to be fine,’ ” Nutter remembered telling Jayme.
Jayme had been missing after vanishing on Oct. 15 — the same night her parents, James, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, were found dead in their home in Barron, nearly 70 miles south of Gordon. She had been declared “missing and endangered,” an AMBER Alert was issued for her and thousands of people joined investigators in their search for her.
On Thursday afternoon, Nutter brought Jayme to the nearby front door of Kristin and Peter Kasinskas, who opened their front door around 4 p.m. to the sound of frantic knocking from a female neighbor. “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!” Nutter said, the pair recalled to the Star Tribune.
Nutter also spoke with multiple local news outlets on Friday, telling reporters, “[Jayme] said, ‘I don’t know where I am,’ a couple of times. I explained, ‘You’re in Gordon, Wisconsin.’ And then when I knew who she was, I said, ‘Jayme, you’re really only an hour-and-a-half or so from home, if that gives you some perspective.’ She had no idea where she was.”
According to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, Jayme was cleared medically Friday morning and will be reunited with her relatives later today. The teen will live with her aunt, Jennifer Smith — Jayme’s mother’s sister and legal guardian — a close friend of Jayme Closs‘ aunt told PEOPLE on Friday.
Investigators continue to speak to Jayme, and are still learning more about her harrowing ordeal, Fitzgerald said.
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“Jayme is a complete badass,” Jodie Arnold, who is first cousins with Jayme’s late mother Denise, told PEOPLE. “As far as I’m concerned she saved herself,” said Arnold, who credits Jayme’s “perseverance and will to live” for her freedom.
Thanking Nutter for finding Jayme, Arnold said, “This woman who found Jayme – Oh my God. I can’t imagine walking your dog and out of the woods comes this girl. … I don’t know about around the country, but in this state, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who didn’t know what her face looked like. She instantly knew who she was. Thank God there was somebody walking.”
At Friday’s morning press conference, Fitzgerald alleged the suspect planned the crime and that “Jayme was the only target,” and that Patterson allegedly went to the home for the purpose of kidnapping Jayme.
Fitzgerald said the suspect had no prior contact with Jayme’s parents, but her parents were longtime employees of the Jennie-O Turkey Store, and the company confirms to PEOPLE that the suspect worked there for one day.
- Reporting by WENDY GROSSMAN