BARRON, Wis. — A 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed has been found alive, authorities said Thursday.
The Barron County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page that Jayme Closs has been located and that a suspect was taken into custody.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said the sheriff’s office in Douglas County, about 70 miles north of Barron County, located the girl. A suspect was apprehended a short time later. The statement did not say where Jayme was found or give any further information about the suspect.
The sheriff’s office plans to hold a news conference 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 comment Thursday evening. Both agencies have been involved in the search for Jayme.
Jayme Closs has been missing since her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot to death Oct. 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 in the effort to find Jayme. Some tips led officials to recruit 2,000 volunteers for a massive ground search on Oct. 23.
Fitzgerald said in November that he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Jayme, 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 recognized her abductors from an “America’s Most Wanted” episode.
“I have a gut feeling she’s (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 Thursday night he hadn’t heard any details about Jayme’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.”
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.