Jayme Closs: The girl who saved herself

The 13-year-old escaped on Thursday, after the trail had seemingly gone cold.
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Jayme Closs

The first picture of Jayme Closs shared since she was found safe, pictured with aunt Jennifer Smith.

"Jayme is the hero in this case, there's no question about it."

The words were spoken by Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald on Friday afternoon, 24 hours after the 13-year-old was found in dramatic fashion in rural Douglas County.

Fitzgerald, who has been the driving force behind and the face of the almost three-month search for Jayme, then added that "she's the one that helped us break the case."

That is an understatement to say the least, given the circumstances of Thursday afternoon.

From what we know, Jayme was being held in a house in Gordon, Wisconsin, by her alleged abductor, Jake Patterson.

At some point on Thursday, Patterson left the house and Jayme seized her chance, escaping her confines in a manner that has not yet been determined by authorities.

Even after escaping she faced another challenge, namely that she'd been brought to Gordon, an unfamiliar location some 65 miles from her hometown of Barron.

But the young teen showed the wherewithal to find help in the form of Jeanne Nutter, who was walking her dog near a housing estate 9 miles east of Gordon.

"I’m lost, and I don’t know where I am, and I need help," Jayme told Nutter as she approached, according to CNN, and as she got closer, added: "I'm Jayme."

While in a bedraggled state, wearing shoes that were too big for her, Jayme was then able to give the police a detailed description of her captor, who was picked up just 11 minutes later while out looking for her.

For a 13-year-old to show the guts to survive and escape, and then show the composure to lead police to her captor after the horror she's had to endure is, as Sheriff Fitzgerald put it, "amazing."

That's not in any way to understate the effort of law enforcement in the search, with the Barron County Sheriff's Office and the FBI at the forefront of the operation to bring Jayme home.

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They chased thousands of tips, utilized the power of the media to spread the word, and mobilized thousands of volunteers to assist with the search.

But after almost three months, and in spite of the unrelenting effort of investigators, there were still no solid leads as of Thursday morning, which we now know was because the suspect had allegedly taken painstaking measures to cover his tracks.

Nonetheless, thanks to the groundwork laid by law enforcement, everybody knew the name Jayme Closs.

This would prove to be vital when she presented herself to Jeanne Nutter on Thursday afternoon.

"We needed a break in this case," said FBI Milwaukee special agent in charge Justin Tolomeo on Friday afternoon. "It was Jayme herself who gave us that break."

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