Ex-kidnapping victims: Jayme Closs needs space, time to heal
By TAMMY WEBBER and BRADY McCOMBS
Saturday, January 12
CHICAGO (AP) — Katie Beers’ joy quickly turned to deep concern when she learned 13-year-old Jayme Closs had been found alive in rural Wisconsin nearly three months after police say a man shot and killed her parents then abducted the girl from their home.
“She is going to have to grieve the loss of her parents and also come to terms with the fact she was abducted, escaped and whatever (other) hell she went through,” said Beers. “And it’s not going to be easy.”
Beers knows that better than most.
Sunday will mark 26 years since a then-10-year-old Beers was rescued from an underground concrete bunker in Bay Shore, New York, where she had been held captive for more than two weeks by a family friend who’d lured her to his home with the promise of birthday presents.
As Jayme begins to process her trauma, experts and former victims say what she needs most is space and time to discuss it on her own terms. And with the help of a supportive and understanding family, she likely will be able to recover and live a happy life.
“One of the things that helped me recover so quickly is that nobody forced me to talk about what happened,” said Beers, 36, who is married and has two children. “I didn’t even do interviews until I was 30. I didn’t have to relive it every day.”
Authorities said Jayme was skinny, disheveled and wearing shoes too big for her when she approached a stranger and pleaded for help Thursday in the small northwoods town of Gordon, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) from her hometown of Barron. Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, was quickly arrested and jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges.
It’s unclear exactly what Jayme experienced — including whether she was coerced with threats or physically abused — so people must be careful how they interact with her, said Duane Bowers, a trauma therapist who works with families of missing and exploited children and adults.
Although friends and family might be eager to know details, the only control the victim has is when, to whom and how they tell their story, Bowers said, adding that’s especially true of Jayme, who has lost so much.
For most child kidnapping victims, they have the hope that their parents will find them, “but in this case she knew her folks were dead and couldn’t find her,” Bowers said. So now, “she needs to feel … in control and experience her memories in a way that … doesn’t retrigger” her trauma.
Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, told The Associated Press that everyone endures different mental and psychological trauma after kidnappings, but Jayme will have to confront the fact that there “is no going back to the way things were.”
“Probably one of the more difficult issues is going to be finding that new sense of normalcy in her life,” said Smart, a 31-year-old mother of three. “Not recreating the old but (creating) the new and learning to be OK with that.”
She cautioned questions that might seem harmless could be hurtful.
Smart said she would get defensive when people asked her why she didn’t run or scream when her captors sometimes traveled with her out in the open. Smart was found nine months after her disappearance while walking with her kidnappers in a Salt Lake City suburb by people who recognized the couple from media reports.
As an adult she realized they didn’t mean any harm, she said.
“My brain heard that question as, ‘You should have tried harder. You should have run, you should have yelled, this is somehow your fault,’” Smart said. “So, I would just caution her community and anyone able to interact with her to really think about the questions they are asking her.”
Beers and Smart said they are proof that trauma survivors can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
“It’s never going to be easy, but with the correct support, the correct people to talk to and people there who love you, she’s going to be able to survive and thrive,” said Beers, who was raised by a foster family after her rescue because of abuse she’d suffered within her own family before the kidnapping.
“They just surrounded me with love and gave me a normal home and that to me … was the most important thing,” Beers said.
It won’t happen quickly, though, Bowers said, and people need to realize that Jayme will relive her trauma in different ways throughout her life — including if she forms romantic relationships or has children of her own.
“People tend to think, ‘OK, it’s been a year now, you should be fine,’” Bowers said. “You might learn to cope and deal with it, but it will never go away.”
He said it’s also important for Jayme to know that “anything you’re thinking and feeling is normal. Don’t be afraid of it; don’t think there’s something wrong with you. … You’re not the bad guy here.”
Smart said she would tell Jayme that “she is a survivor and she is a hero. She’s incredibly strong and incredibly brave and there’s so many people who love her and are in awe of her and who want to help her and support her in any way.
“And I would tell her that this experience might feel like it’s defining, it might feel like that’s who she is now, but it doesn’t have to be,” Smart said.
What’s more, she said, Jayme’s escape and rescue are “the reason why we can never give up hope on any missing child.”
McCombs reported from Salt Lake City.
Granddad: Wisconsin girl has no link to suspected kidnapper
By TODD RICHMOND
Saturday, January 12
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The grandfather of a northwestern Wisconsin girl who was abducted during a home invasion that left her parents dead said Saturday that the family has no connection to the suspect and doesn’t understand why he targeted her, deepening a mystery that has captivated the state for months.
Someone blasted open the door of James and Denise Closs’ home near Barron in October, gunned the couple down and made off with their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme Closs.
Jayme was missing for nearly three months when she approached a stranger in the small, isolated north woods town of Gordon and pleaded for help. Officers arrested 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson minutes later based on Jayme’s description of his vehicle. He was jailed on suspicion of kidnapping and homicide.
Investigators have said Patterson’s goal was to kidnap Jayme, but he appears to have no connection to the family. Jayme’s grandfather Robert Naiberg said in a telephone interview Saturday that the only thing the family knows for sure is no one knew Patterson. He said that Jayme told FBI agents she didn’t know him at all.
“He didn’t know Jayme, he didn’t know Denise or Jim,” Naiberg said. “(Jayme) don’t know him from Adam. (But) he knew what he was doing. We don’t know if he was stalking her or what. Did he see her somewhere?”
The news that Jayme was safe set off joy and relief in her hometown of Barron, population 3,300 and about 60 miles (96 kilometers) from where she was found. The discovery ended an all-out search that gripped the state, with many people fearing the worst the longer she was missing.
“My legs started to shake. It was awesome. The stress, the relief — it was awesome,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said, describing the moment he learned Jayme had been found.
Jayme told one of the neighbors in Gordon who took her in that she had walked away from a cabin where she had been held captive.
“She said that this person’s name was Jake Patterson, ‘he killed my parents and took me,’” said another neighbor, Kristin Kasinskas. “She did not talk about why or how. She said she did not know him.”
The sheriff said investigators are trying to figure out what happened to Jayme during her captivity and why she was seized, and gave no details on how she escaped except to say Patterson was not home at the time. He said there is no evidence Patterson knew Jayme or her family or had been in contact with her on social media.
“I know all of you are searching for the answer why any of this happened,” Fitzgerald said. “Believe me, so are we.”
Patterson took such measures as shaving his head beforehand to avoid leaving evidence at the scene, the sheriff said. A shotgun was recovered from the home where Jayme was believed held, according to Fitzgerald.
Property records show that the cabin belonged to Patterson’s father at the time of Jayme’s disappearance.
The sheriff said that he did not know whether Jayme had been physically abused.
Naiberg, Jayme’s grandfather, said he spent a few hours with her on Friday. No one pressed her to talk, he said, adding that FBI agents and doctors advised them to let her speak when she’s ready. He said she was largely silent and did not talk about how Patterson had kept her confined.
Patterson was scheduled for an initial court appearance Monday. It was not immediately known whether the unemployed Patterson had an attorney. Prosecutors anticipate filing homicide and kidnapping charges against him on Monday. With those charges will come a criminal complaint that could reveal more details.
Patterson remained largely an enigma Saturday.
He has no criminal record, the sheriff said. He worked for one day in 2016 at the same Jennie-O turkey plant in Barron as Jayme’s parents. But the sheriff said it did not appear Patterson interacted with the couple during his brief time there.
He graduated in 2015 from Northwood High School, where he was on the quiz bowl team and was a good student with a “great group of friends,” said District Superintendent Jean Serum.
Kasinskas said she taught Patterson science in middle school, but added: “I don’t really remember a ton about him.”
“He seemed like a quiet kid,” she said. “I don’t recall anything that would have explained this, by any means.”
Over the past few months, detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches for Jayme, including one that drew 2,000 volunteers but yielded no clues.
In November, the sheriff said he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Jayme, including the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. Smart was rescued nine months later after witnesses recognized her abductors on an “America’s Most Wanted” episode.
Smart said in a telephone interview that Jayme’s story is “why we can never give up hope on any missing child.”
For more stories on Jayme’s abduction and her parents’ deaths: https://apnews.com/JaymeCloss
Associated Press writers Jeff Baenen in Barron, Wisconsin; Amy Forliti in Gordon, Wisconsin; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; and Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
Suspect in Wisconsin killings, kidnapping due in court
By AMY FORLITI and TODD RICHMOND
BARRON, Wis. (AP) — A young man suspected of killing a Wisconsin couple, kidnapping their teenage daughter and holding her captive for three months is expected to make his first court appearance Monday, and charging documents could shed light on why he targeted the girl.
Prosecutors are expected to formally charge 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson with two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping before his afternoon court hearing in Barron County Circuit Court.
Investigators believe Patterson broke into James and Denise Closs’ home near Barron on Oct. 15 by blowing the front door open with a shotgun blast. Investigators allege he fatally shot the couple and abducted their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme. She escaped her captor late last week in a rural, heavily wooded area in northwest Wisconsin.
Authorities have said Patterson’s goal was to kidnap Jayme, but it’s unclear how he became aware of the girl, especially because he lived an hour away.
Patterson’s defense attorneys, Charles Glynn and Richard Jones, said they believe Patterson can get a fair trial, but they’re not sure where. The public defenders didn’t reveal many specifics about what they expect from Monday’s court hearing, but they acknowledged the case was “a tragic situation from every perspective.”
“It’s been an emotional time for this community and a difficult time for this community. We don’t take that lightly. But we have a job to do in protecting our client,” Jones said.
Police collected more than 3,500 tips following Jayme’s disappearance, but no hard leads emerged.
Then on Thursday, a woman walking her dog spotted Jayme along a road near Gordon, a town about an hour’s drive north of Barron. The woman says the girl begged her for help, saying Patterson had been hiding her in a nearby cabin and that she had escaped when he left her alone.
Neighbors called 911, and officers arrested Patterson within minutes. He has no criminal history in Wisconsin.
The New York Post published photos of the cabin on Monday. They show a shabby living area with a couch, refrigerator and old television set. The ceiling is unfinished. Exterior photographs show a lean-to loaded with firewood, a three-car garage and an empty box of adult female diapers in a trash can. A sign over the cabin’s front door reads “Pattersons Retreat.”
Investigators say there’s no evidence of any online interactions between Patterson and Jayme. Her family insists they don’t know the man. Her grandfather, Robert Naiberg, told The Associated Press that Jayme told FBI agents she doesn’t know Patterson at all.
Charging documents in Wisconsin typically contain at least a partial narrative of what happened at a crime scene as prosecutors try to prove there’s probable cause to support the allegations.
Details of Jayme’s three-month captivity have not been released, and Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald has not said whether Jayme was sexually assaulted. But Patterson’s attorneys have been lauded for taking high-profile cases with a special emphasis on sexually violent people, according to a state public defender office news release from February 2018.
Glynn and Jones issued a statement Saturday saying they were relying on the court system to treat Patterson fairly.
For more stories on Jayme’s abduction and her parents’ deaths: https://apnews.com/JaymeCloss
Richmond reported from Madison, Wisconsin.
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1