Missing American teenage girl Jayme Closs found alive, three months after parents killed

  • Police said girl was found an hour from her home and a suspect was taken into custody
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 1:36pm

A 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed has been found alive in a rural town about an hour from her home, authorities said on Thursday.

The Barron County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page that Jayme Closs has been found and a suspect taken into custody. Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Closs was expected to be reunited with her family on Thursday night.

Fitzgerald said authorities in Douglas County, about 104km (65 miles) north of Barron County, found the girl. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on its website that Jayme was found in the town of Gordon at 4:43pm on Thursday and a suspect was taken into custody 11 minutes later.

Neither statement gave any further information about the suspect. Jayme’s grandfather, Robert Naiberg, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Jayme was taken to hospital.

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Sue Allard, Jayme’s aunt, told the newspaper she could barely express her joy after hearing the news.

“Praise the lord,” she said between sobs. “It’s the news we’ve been waiting on for three months. I can’t wait to get my arms around her. I just can’t wait.”

The Barron County sheriff’s office planned to hold a news conference on Friday morning to discuss the case. Gillian Drummond, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and Leonard Peace, a spokesman for the FBI in Wisconsin, declined to comment. Both agencies have been involved in the search for Jayme.

The phone at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office rang unanswered on Thursday night and Sheriff Thomas Dalbec did not immediately respond to an email.

Jayme Closs has been missing since her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead on October 15 in the family’s home near Barron. Investigators said Jayme was quickly ruled out as a suspect.

Detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches to try to find Closs. Some tips led officials to recruit 2,000 volunteers for a massive ground search on October 23 but it found no clues.

Fitzgerald said in November that he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Closs, including the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, who was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 when she was 14 years old. She was rescued nine months later with the help of two witnesses who recognised her abductors from the America’s Most Wanted television programme.

“I have a gut feeling [Jayme’s] still alive. I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of guy,” Fitzgerald said at the time.

Barron Mayor Ron Fladten said on Thursday night he had not heard any details about Closs’s discovery yet but was overjoyed at learning she is alive.

“There was a lot of discouragement because this took quite a while to play out,” Fladten said. “A lot of people have been praying daily, as I have. It’s just a great result we got tonight. It’s unbelievable. It’s like taking a big black cloud in the sky and getting rid of it and the sun comes out again.”

The Town of Gordon is home to about 645 people.

He acknowledged that Jayme may not be the same person she was before she disappeared.

“I hope that she’s in good shape,” the mayor said. “She’s no doubt been through just a terrible ordeal. I think everybody wishes her a good recovery and a happy life going into the future.”

The notification that Jayme had been found came just four hours after Fitzgerald had taken to Twitter to debunk a report that she had been found alive near Walworth County. Douglas County, where Jayme was found, is hundreds of miles northwest of Walworth County.