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By Doha Madani
Jayme Closs, the Wisconsin girl who went missing for nearly three months after her parents were killed, was found alive Thursday after emerging from the woods in a rural community about 70 miles from her home.
A woman walking her dog came across the 13-year-old, who had vanished on Oct. 15, the day her parents were discovered fatally shot inside their home. She was described by those who found her as “unkempt,” and said she spoke of being “locked up or hidden” where she was being held.
Jayme was found in Douglas County, Wisconsin, and a suspect was taken into custody Thursday, the Barron County Sheriff’s Department announced. Douglas County is at the far northwest corner of the state, an hour north of Barron, where the Closs family lived.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said Jayme was found outside of the remote town of Gordon as a result of a phoned-in tip.
Kristin and Peter Kasinskas recounted to the Minneapolis Star Tribune how a neighbor pounded on their door with a skinny, dirty girl with matted hair standing next to her. The neighbor shouted, “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!”
That neighbor, Jeanne Nutter, was walking her dog near her cabin when “the girl just came out of the woods,” her husband, Forrest, told The Daily Beast.
He confirmed that his wife, who had previously worked in child protective services, took Jayme to a neighbor’s home and they called authorities.
Kristin and Peter Kasinskas said Jayme was quiet and showed little emotion. She told them that she didn’t know where she was, although she made it clear that she had been taken and that her parents were killed.
“She didn’t express any fear fear,” Kristin Kasinskas told NBC affiliate KARE. “She didn’t say that she was afraid this person was coming after her.”
While everyone waited for police to arrive, Kristin Kasinskas said they tried to make Jayme feel comfortable. They gave her a blanket because she felt cold, but she refused any food or drink.
The girl gave few details about where she was being held and by whom, but Kristin Kasinskas told “Today” on Friday that she “kind of talked about being locked up or hidden when this person had to leave.”
She said she recognized the name of the suspect taken into custody, but didn’t know them.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now,” Peter Kasinskas told the Tribune. “It was like I was seeing a ghost. It was scary and awesome at the same time. My jaw just went to the floor.”
No information about her condition was provided. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET) Friday.
Authorities began to search for Jayme after deputies who had been called to the Closs home in the town of Barron, about 75 miles northeast of Minneapolis, discovered her parents, James Closs, 56, and his wife, Denise, 46.
Deputies arrived about four minutes after the end of a 911 call that appeared to come from Denise Closs’ cellphone, according to dispatch logs. They found the victims, but Jayme wasn’t there and no gun was found, Fitzgerald said at the time.
Detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches to find her, joined by about 2,000 volunteers during the initial searches. Law enforcement agencies across the country were put on alert after Jayme’s disappearance gained nationwide media attention.
“I’m shocked,” Kelly Engelhardt, Jayme’s aunt, told KARE on Thursday night. “It’s what we’ve prayed for every single day.”
Engelhardt said that Jayme wasn’t believed to have been physically hurt and that she was expected to be home Thursday night or Friday. She said the FBI told the family that Jayme was talking and answering questions.
“I honestly had faith,” she said. “I figured if they hadn’t found her by now that the person that did this didn’t want her dead, so I had hope. Every day there was hope. We had too much love and support around us for us to give up.”