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Suspected Kidnapper Of Wis. Teenager Is To Make First Court Appearance


People in Wisconsin are celebrating the return of a teenager who went missing three months ago after her parents were found shot to death in their home. Residents of the town of Barron were as startled by Jayme Closs' abduction as they are now overjoyed by her return. Today, the man suspected of kidnapping Closs and killing her parents is expected to make his first appearance in court. Rich Kremer of Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

RICH KREMER, BYLINE: I'm standing outside the Closs family home on the outskirts of Barron. On October 15, local law enforcement, responding to a 911 call, found parents James and Denise murdered. Thirteen-year-old Jayme, who was inside the house at the time, was gone. For residents in this small, rural city, their sense of safety was shattered.

DAN SCHULLO: The big question was, was it professional? Was it amateur? - was, were we going to see her alive?

KREMER: That's Dan Schullo. He and his wife, Dianne, are eating breakfast at Season's Cafe in this city of 3,300. He says while he never met the Closs family, he thought about them constantly during the 88 days that local, state and federal law enforcement officials swarmed Barron in searching for the girl. On Thursday, she escaped from a home 70 miles to the north in the town of Gordon.

SCHULLO: It was like an elephant got off from our chest when we learned she got out of that house and was able to find help.

KREMER: When sheriff's deputies spoke with Closs, she described her captor's vehicle. Soon after, they pulled over 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson. Deputies recovered a shotgun similar to the one investigators believe was used to shoot open the Closs' door and kill Jayme's parents. The abduction and murders received national attention and drew more than 2,000 volunteers - so many that police had to turn some away. The local school district held a rally for the girl. And residents lit their porches with blue lights, Jayme's favorite color, and green lights to represent hope that she'd be found alive. At the same time, the school district and sheriff's department blanketed the area with posters and social media updates to keep her story front and center. Closs' aunt Kelly Engelhardt, who lost her brother in the October slayings, says the community support was overwhelming.

KELLY ENGELHARDT: Every single day, we had people approach us, talk to us, call us, text us, email us. Every single day, there's support for Jayme. So when you have support like that, you can't but hope for the best because you don't want to let other people down.

KREMER: That hope here was sometimes coupled with dread, though, because no suspect was named. Other than two vehicles of interest, there were no major breaks in the case until Jayme Closs freed herself. For three months, the crime seemed to permeate the town's culture. Isaak Mohamed (ph) works for the Barron Area School District and worried about children going back and forth from school.

ISAAK MOHAMED: I was, I mean, checking on the buses in the morning when the kids board. I mean, as a wider community, checking in where the kids go. Parents called me. My wife and I were so, I mean, sad. And we were, like, cautious. Everyone was cautious. Like, where's the child? Is it the bus time? We need to go out there.

KREMER: Jake Thomas Patterson is in the Barron County Jail and will make his initial court appearance this afternoon. Jayme Closs is reunited with her remaining family here in Barron, where a number of residents used the term giddy to describe their feelings about her return. For NPR News, I'm Rich Kremer in Barron, Wis.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLUSHII'S "SAPIENT DREAM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rich Kremer