Eyewitness, law enforcement recount moments after Closs was found alive
GORDON, Wis. — Jeanne Nutter neared the end of a walk with her dog Thursday, Jan. 10, when she saw a young woman approaching her on the road outside Gordon, Wis.
The girl wore no coat, a baggy sweatshirt and what looked like slippers but were quickly judged to be shoes too big for the girl’s feet.
Alone visiting her nearby cabin, Nutter, 66, instinctively sensed trouble and that the girl had left somewhere in a hurry.
A retired child protection social worker with the state of Wisconsin, Nutter swung into protection mode as she heard Closs say she was lost and needed help.
“She looked at me and said, ‘I’m Jayme Closs,’ and I knew who she was immediately from the pictures of her,” Nutter said Friday — less than 24 hours after the missing Closs had been recovered. “I knew immediately I needed to get her to a safe place. And I knew it wasn’t my place.”
The Nutter cabin is an A-frame facing away from the road and shut off from the rest of the circuitous community along South Eau Claire Acres Circle, where two doors to the west of the Nutters lived Jake Patterson, Closs’ suspected 21-year-old abductor.
“I’ve walked by it every time I come up for four years,” Nutter said of Patterson’s place. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him.”
Telling herself it wasn’t her job to ask questions of Closs, Nutter and her dog kept it simple and calm. They gathered Closs and retreated east along the roadway, away from Patterson’s residence and the Nutter cabin and toward homes where Nutter knew there would be more people and greater security.
“She needed to get away — to be someplace where she was not close (to where she was coming from) and where there were other people,” Nutter said. “I had two missions: to get her someplace warm and someplace safe.”
Nutter’s thoughts were swirling, but she stayed in the moment. She’d known the Closs parents had been murdered, and Closs was likely kidnapped and in danger. She knew somebody with bad intentions could be pursuing Closs and, in one of her few inquiries to Closs, Nutter found out about Patterson’s red car.
Nutter was on the lookout for the vehicle while the three of them made their way to safety. Nutter said she was prepared to dive for cover if need be. It took eight minutes, Nutter said, to get to the Kasinskas residence. Nutter knew they would be protected there.
Peter Kasinskas said he was cleaning fish in the kitchen when his dogs “started going crazy.”
His wife, Kristin, and children, ages 7 and 9, were getting home.
“And then the neighbor lady was pounding on our door in the kitchen,” Peter Kasinskas said. “She opened the door, her dog ran in, and then she helped this girl into the kitchen. She said: ‘It’s Jayme Closs. Call 911.’
“My jaw hit the floor.”
The 13-year-old Wisconsin girl from Barron had been missing since Oct. 15.
Kristin Kasinskas immediately called 911.
“Jayme was able to give us the person’s name and the color of the car that he drove, so when we called the police they could know who they were looking for,” Peter Kasinskas said. “She was probably in shock. She was pretty quiet. She didn’t say a lot.”
The Kasinskas had once been foster parents and Kristin Kasinskas is a teacher at Northwood High School in Minong, Wis. Together, Nutter said the trio of rescuers knew how to work with a child in crisis.
“Mostly, we didn’t want to rile her up,” Nutter said.
Knowing the circumstances surrounding Closs, Peter Kasinskas took steps to keep everyone safe.
“So, they got in the house, and I loaded a gun and got ready and was standing at the door waiting until the police showed up, because (Jayme) said she didn’t know when he was coming back,” Peter Kasinskas said. “When she was sitting on my couch, I couldn’t believe it. I just said to her: ‘I am so happy to see you,’ because I thought she was dead.”
Closs declined any food or drink while they waited for police to arrive.
“She looked frozen, so I gave her a blanket,” Peter Kasinskas said. “She looked thin. She looked like she hadn’t been able to bathe or take care of herself. She just looked kind of run down and dirty. She looked probably 15 pounds lighter than her photos.
“She was very quiet. She was probably still in shock or in relief. Her head had to be going even more than ours was.”
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived within 20 minutes of Kristin’s 911 call. A pair of deputies identified Closs and took her into protective custody. A deputy stayed behind with Nutter and the Kasinskas family.
“They identified her, stood her up, got her in the car and got her out of there instantly,” said Peter Kasinskas, who works at Louisiana Pacific in Hayward.
"It was a great day," Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said.
He credited Nutter and the others for keeping Closs safe and calling 911 right away.
"Our biggest role in it (Thursday) was locating the suspect and arresting him," Dalbec said.
The department's news release indicated the suspect was arrested 11 minutes after deputies converged on the area to secure Closs and make sure she was safe.
Dalbec said one of his patrol sergeants had left the immediate area and was driving around patrolling. He noticed a vehicle which matched the suspect’s vehicle description and a man found to be Patterson driving it.
The patrol sergeant pulled over the vehicle based on the fact that it had a burned-out taillight, because he didn't know for sure that was the vehicle, Dalbec said.
After officers approached the vehicle, they identified the driver as the suspect and arrested him. Authorities identified the suspect as Patterson, of Gordon, during their news conference on Friday.
Dalbec said charges for crimes allegedly committed in Douglas County are expected to be included in the Barron County criminal complaint against the suspect.
About a dozen officers were involved in the Closs case Thursday and overnight. Dalbec expected another half dozen or so to be involved in follow-up work Friday, which will include interviewing and tracking down information as well as searching the house where Closs was reportedly held. He said the investigation will probably be ongoing through the weekend.
Nutter lives in Strum, Wis., south of Eau Claire and roughly two hours south of Gordon. She made up her mind mid-week to retreat to her cabin with her dog. The Eau Claire Acres neighborhood is located along the Eau Claire River and features large, wooded lots with seasonal cabins scattered among year-round homes.
Nutter arrived Thursday later than planned. She followed her dog’s urge to head for a walk before sundown.
“I owe it all to him,” she said. “He made me go for a walk.”
They’d nearly completed the mile-and-a-half loop through the neighborhood and were at the top of the Nutter driveway when Closs emerged to approach them on the road.
“I’ve been in shock she was so close to me,” Nutter said. “I’m here in this little place that’s kind of my sanctuary. What a brave kid, though. She’s the hero — getting herself out of there and trying to find somebody to help her.”