Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A 13-year-old Wisconsin girl who'd been missing for three months finally escaped by fleeing her abductor's home and running to a woman walking her dog nearby, authorities said Friday.
At a news conference, the Barron County Sheriff's Department detailed how Jayme Closs got free and said a suspect is in custody. The information was given less than 24 hours after the girl freed herself in Gordon, Wis., about 70 miles from her home in Barron.
Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, was arrested and faces charges of kidnapping and murder, officials said. Closs disappeared Oct. 15 when her parents were both found dead. She hadn't been seen or heard from until Thursday.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said it appears Closs was the target during the home invasion, not her parents. It's unclear, though, if the Closses and Patterson knew each other. Patterson does have ties to the Barron area, Fitzgerald said.
The sheriff said the girl had given police a description of her kidnapper and his vehicle, leading to his arrest a short time after she escaped.
"Jayme was taken against her will and escaped the home where she was being held," Fitzgerald said. "We do believe that Jayme was the only target."
He added that Patterson took "proactive steps" to hide his identity from law enforcement and the public. Search warrants are being issued to gather additional evidence.
There are no additional suspects in the case.
Fitzgerald said detectives worked on the case since the day she disappeared.
"For 88 days, you called in tips, brought us food, searched arm-in-arm with us," Fitzgerald told Barron County residents. "She did escape from his home and did find help. That is the will of a kid to survive. It's unthinkable."
Closs had unkempt hair and wore oversized shoes when she made it out and approached the woman walking her dog, screaming that a man had killed her parents.
The woman recognized the girl and immediately called police. Closs was offered food and water at a nearby house and played with the family's puppy, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
"I honestly still think I'm dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost," homeowner Peter Kasinskas said.
The girl was taken to a Duluth hospital where she was checked out and reunited with her family.
Barron Area School District Supt. Diane Tremblay said the district never gave up hope that Closs would be found alive, and promised a celebration for her return.
Police received several false leads, including one that came in from another part of Wisconsin just minutes before the real call came in, Fitzgerald said. It appeared that unsuccessful lead was the reason for a discrepancy on the sheriff department's Facebook page Thursday afternoon, which stated that Closs had not been found.
On the day of her disappearance, a 911 call came from the Closs family's home and lasted less than a minute, officials said. The only word that was understood was "help." At the time, a neighbor reported hearing gunshots, but thought it was hunters targeting an animal.