Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Briefing on Wisconsin Teen Jayme Closs Found Alive. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This room is full of people who are asking the same questions we are. Jayme was walking when someone walking a dog saw her, walked up to her. They said they reported that she looked very skinny and wasn't taken care of very well. Behind us, everyone is walking in for the news conference. Hopefully, we will get details we have been waiting to hear about how she was found and what she was doing for those last 88 days. Remember, her parents were found murdered inside their home a few months ago after a cell phone call was made to 911. After that was done, they arrived there, she was gone. So we'll see what this news conference --

CHRIS FITZGERALD, SHERIFF, BANNON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Good morning. Thank you for being here.

For 88 days, I have stood before you and said we would work tirelessly to bring Jayme Closs home. Today, I can report we have done just that. At this point, Jayme is being in the comforting embrace of law enforcement as the investigation in her three-month ordeal ensues. And 88 days ago, we stood before you, speaking about the unthinkable tragedy, and asked you to help us find 13-year-old Jayme Closs. For 88 days, you called in tips, brought us food, searched arm and arm with us, wrote us notes, and never gave up hope. As the days and weeks wore on, you still continued to call. Law enforcement locally and across the country continued to comb through over 3,500 tips. And the family never gave up hope. Last night our collective promise was fulfilled with Jayme's safe recovery. Thank you to all.

Joining me today, FBI Special Agent Justin Tolomeo, Josh Kaul, Wisconsin attorney general, Brian O'Keefe, from the Wisconsin Department of Investigation, Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec, Captain Nick Wanink, from the Wisconsin State Patrol, and Diane Tremblay, superintendent of the Barron school district.

Jayme is safe and the family is requesting that you please respect their privacy at this extremely emotional time.

Also, you will hear from Superintendent Diane Tremblay on a message from the school. And please respect no media on school property today, please.

This case remains a team effort from the beginning. I will never be able to thank all the agencies and businesses, individuals that helped on this case with the singular focus to bring Jayme home.

Yesterday, there was a lot of confusion with an erroneous social media post about 4:30 p.m. in Walworth County. This was an incident in Walworth County that in no way had connection to this case as reported on Facebook. Shortly after, I posted that Jayme was not involved in the Walworth County incident, my detectives were alerted to a 911 call was being given out in Douglas County responding to a person claiming they had found Jayme.

I will now bring up Sheriff Tom Dalbec, the Douglas County sheriff. He will address this part of the incident.

Sheriff?

TOM DALBEC, SHERIFF, DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Thanks, Chris.

My agency received a 911 call about 4:30 yesterday afternoon from the individual who was out walking her dog, said she was approached by a young female claiming to be Jayme Closs. This lady immediately went to a nearby house and notified that neighbor of the claim. And this neighbor called 911. And my deputies responded in mass immediately and identified Jayme as the person that approached the neighbor, took control of her, possession of her, and put her in safe keeping.

A short time later, one of my patrol sergeants happened to find the vehicle that matched the description that Jayme gave my deputies of the suspect and pulled the vehicle over and took the suspect in custody at that time.

Beyond that, Jayme was taken to a local hospital where she was looked over and examined and she was held overnight for observation.

And the suspect was interviewed and subsequently brought back down here to Barron County.

That's all I have right now.

FITZGERALD: Thank you, Sheriff Dalbec, and that you deputies for the work that they helped in this case.

The suspect was arrested and is being held in the Barron County jail. That suspect is Jake Thomas Patterson. P-A-T-T-E-R-S-O-N. He is 21 years old from Gordon, Wisconsin. He is currently being held on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the murder of Jayme's parents and one count of kidnapping.

Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright will give a brief comment next.

[11:04:53] BRIAN WRIGHT, BARRON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Thank you, Sheriff Fitzgerald.

First of all, I want to thank everyone with law enforcement for the tremendous work that they did to bring Jayme home. That starts with Sheriff Fitzgerald and the Barron County Sheriff's Department. It includes the FBI, the Division of Criminal Investigation and the hundreds of officers who came to Barron County to assist in this investigation. I saw first-hand how brave, determined, and dedicated these men and women are. It has truly been an honor to see the work that they have performed as public servants to this community.

It was only a few months ago that we as a community gathered to pray for Jayme's safe return at Barron High School. God has answered those prayers.

The case will now be referred to the district attorney's office. Our office will review the reports and then make a charging decision. It is my intent to have a criminal complaint filed by next week. It is our job in prosecuting this case to obtain justice for James, Denise and Jayme Closs. We will do so.

Thank you.

FITZGERALD: Thank you, D.A. Wright.

This case remains very active and fluid as we stand before you today. We have FBI, DCI, state patrol, Douglas County investigators and Barron County detectives actively working the scene and conducting interviews. So details will be sparse right now. We do plan a 4:00 p.m. media update with more details to be released at that time right here.

As you heard, the charges of the suspect -- the suspect is being charged with kidnapping. Jayme was taken against her will and escaped from a residence at which she was being held and found help. We also do not believe at this time that the suspect had any contact with the family. We do believe Jayme was the only target. I can tell you that the subject planned his actions and took many proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement and the general public.

Next, I want to invite some of our partners to make a few comments. Again, these agencies stepped forward, coming here, never gave up hope and became part of our community. I can never thank them enough.

First, I will bring up special agent in charge of the FBI, Justin Tolomeo.

JUSTIN TOLOMEO, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, MILWAUKEE DIVISION: Thank you, Sheriff.

Again, I am Justin Tolomeo. I am the FBI special agent in charge of the Milwaukee division, which covers all of Wisconsin.

We are so pleased to stand here today with our fellow law enforcement partners to celebrate Jayme's recovery. It is an incredible day. As the sheriff said, this case was challenging given the proactive steps the subject took to avoid detection. In cases like this, we often need a big break. It was Jayme herself who gave us that break.

We would like to thank the citizens who came forward quickly to help save Jayme and the fast action of the Douglas County sheriff's office to bring her home safely. I also want to recognize the tireless efforts of agents, deputies,

officers and staff who spent the past three months never giving up on Jayme.

This is all the outcome we like to have when a child goes missing. This is all we want to see. And it happened in this case.

Thanks again to Jayme's family and the entire community of Barron for never giving up on Jayme. Today, we can finally say Jayme Closs is home. Thank you.

FITZGERALD: Thank you.

Next I want to bring up Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.

JOSH KAUL, WISCONSIN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, sheriff.

First, let me thank Sheriff Fitzgerald for his incredible leadership throughout this process.

Sheriff, people across Wisconsin, and I suspect across this country, are overjoyed that Jayme is finally safe.

This was an effort that involved numerous law enforcement agencies, more than I have time to name. And I want to thank everybody who participated in this investigation.

I want to thank everybody in the community who volunteered, who played a role, who supported this investigation and who supported law enforcement.

I want to say that I am incredibly proud of the work that the Department of Justice played in assisting with this investigation. The Department of Justice will continue to assist as needed with the investigation and with the prosecution of this case. So thank you again.

Thank you.

FITZGERALD: Next, we will bring up Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation administrator, Brian O'Keefe.

[11:10:06] BRIAN O'KEEFE, ADMINISTRATOR, DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Thank you, Sheriff.

A lot of thank yous today for everybody. And I want to say, first, thank you to the media, also for helping out. You guys have been present here but you have also been a great resource to law enforcement getting the message out about Jayme. That's incredible. Thank you to you.

Also, I want to say thank you to all of our agents, the deputies. We've talked about it. This case had so many technical aspects that were very challenging for law enforcement. Everybody never blinked about putting aside their personal lives to bring a little girl home. The work that got done is -- I don't think I have seen this much work done on any one case I have been involved with in my entire career. The friendships and the professionalism of all agencies at the local, state and federal level have just been beyond what anybody could really expect. The FBI brought in resources from all over the country. DOJ had resources here on the ground today trying to help the community recover. Victim witness people are up here along with those from the local and federal level. There's a lot of people that are very emotional about the recovery of Jayme. It's a happy thing.

But now we have to work on the recovery process. We reached out to a lot of professionals to help this young lady and her family as they are reunited and she goes through a new healing process. We ask that you please respect the family today as we try to get this work through. There will be time for questions and interviews on that later.

Thank you, again.

FITZGERALD: Thank you.

Lastly, I want to bring up Barron superintendent, Diane Tremblay, to talk about the school plans.

DIANE TREMBLAY, SUPERINTENDENT, BARRON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Hello. My name is Diane Tremblay. I have the honor to serve as superintendent of the Barron area school district in Barron County.

What a glorious day. This will certainly never be forgotten. There's so much love and hugs in our district today. It's just insurmountable. Jayme has been found safe and has been reunited with her family and friends. There's truly nothing in the world better than that.

I would like to take the time to address a few of the questions that have come our way last night and this morning from all of you.

What has it been like in the school district in the past months? It has been 88 days of hope for her safe return, 88 days of prayers for Jayme, her family, friends, students, staff and community, 88 days of holding on to the faith that our authorities would never give up and they certainly did not. Finally, 88 days of our close-knit community with the same goal in mind and that was to bring Jayme home and back into our arms.

I would like to thank everyone for your overflow of support that continues to come to us from local, state, federal agencies, businesses, families, along with the incredible small-town connection that we have. We are truly a beautiful family.

Most importantly, we want to thank Jayme for being so courageous and for achieving an opportunity to find her way back to us. What an extraordinary young lady.

What is the support like in our district was another question that was quite common. The support for our Barron area school district has been nothing less than exceptional. The team work from our administration, our SROs, supervisors, counselors, school psychologists and faith partners from our districts as well as other neighboring districts has and continues to successfully address the distinguished needs of our students, teachers, bus drivers, support staff as well as our entire community.

The Department of Justice School Safety team was the second call I received last evening. It came to me minutes after I received that miraculous call from Sheriff Fitzgerald, who was immediately assessing our needs in the district after he gave me this news. The DOJ Office of School Safety has partnered with us to ensure that our students, staff and the larger school community receive the support that we need to feel safe during this investigation. The Office of School Safety has provided onsite support to Barron school district in the form of school psychologists trained in crisis response, therapy dogs, additional school resource officers and emergency management guidance. The Office of School Safety has also contacted their partners Safe and Sound Schools to help us deliver training and provide support to our school community regarding crisis response, trauma, as well as recovery. In addition to the DOJ Office of School Safety, we are also grateful to the police departments, National Association of School Psychologists and Safe and Sound Schools.

[11:15:37] One last question that has been asked that I would like to address: Will our district be holding a celebration or ceremony in the community of any sort? All I can say to that at this time is you better believe it.

(LAUGHTER)

You better believe it.

Jayme, we missed you and we are so grateful you are home.

Thank you.

FITZGERALD: Before I take questions, I have to really -- we will get to them. I had some thank yous. My thank yous will never be enough. Thank you to Jayme for having the will to survive. Jayme's family for their patience in keeping their faith in us. The people who rescued Jayme yesterday. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office and all their work yesterday. All the law enforcement agencies locally and across the nation that helped us with the tips. The general public for their support of Jayme, from Jayme Facebook groups to businesses that fed us to the posters that went up on semi-trailers, around town, everywhere that you put posters up. The school, superintendent, teachers and students for their notes and beautiful tree lighting. The FBI, DCI, state patrol and other agencies that assisted us. To the members of my team, my command staff, dispatchers that took the tips, patrol officers for following up on the tips, and our detectives as they continue to work in the field today. Lastly, my family for their support and understanding over the past three months.

This has been an awesome day. And I can't thank you guys the media enough either. I got lots of tips, texts last night, tips of support, not looking for information, just saying our newsroom is crying with you. That was pretty awesome. It has been a tremendous day. We will be posting pictures of the

suspect. We will also e-mail this out. This is the suspect in the Barron County jail. PSO and the FBI will be passing these out and we will e-mail that to our press and put it on the Facebook page.

So with that, many of us are available to answer questions. Again, let's try to do it --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff?

FITZGERALD: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you or the other talk to us about Jayme's condition in the moments when she found the neighbor? What did she look like? What did she sound like? How is she right now?

FITZGERALD: I can talk about now. She is good. She has been cleared from the hospital. There's a reunification process in place going on right now that includes medical, mental evaluations, questioning by detectives and FBI, and then reunification with family.

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: We are working on -- that process is in place right now. Part of that is in place. We hope to have her back here in Barron County this morning or early afternoon.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What happened to her the last three months? Do you know that yet?

FITZGERALD: We do not know that. This group does not have that information. This is a very active and fluid case. We are serving search warrants in this moment in Gordon, in other areas, for vehicles, looking for evidence. Again, we hope to release a lot more of that information at 4:00.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said that Jayme was the target, not her parents. What interaction, what contact did the subject have with Jayme beforehand?

FITZGERALD: That's what we're trying to figure out now. But we believe it was very -- we believe there was really none, no contact.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did they know each other prior to this?

FITZGERALD: I don't know that. We are waiting for that. We think at 4:00 we will be able to release more information about that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the suspect have any connection to law enforcement or a criminal history prior to this?

FITZGERALD: Jake Patterson had zero criminal history locally and zero criminal history in the state of Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: We are not looking for any additional suspects.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was Gordon on your radar?

FITZGERALD: Was Gordon on our radar? Gordon was not on our radar.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- first court appearance?

FITZGERALD: The first court appearance?

O'KEEFE: We don't have that yet. That will be set after we file our criminal complaint.

FITZGERALD: Sometime next week. We believe it will be next week, some day next week, a day next week.

[11:20:09] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you explain how she was able to get away yesterday?

FITZGERALD: She is currently doing that with our detectives now. I do not have that. I know she did escape from the home and did find help.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You have been working tirelessly for 88 days, to see her escape by herself, what is that like?

FITZGERALD: That's the will of a kid to survive. It's the unthinkable. You guys know, understand the fake news that is out there and you guys get bombarded with it. We just had it prior to this. I wasn't done with the first tip about she is in Barron County and she's in Douglas County. How can that be? I mean, my head spins as you guys have seen for the last 88 days. It's amazing the will of that 13-year-old girl to survive and escape. That comes from the hope and the prayers in this community and what everybody did. I think what is very interesting is she was recognized immediately by both the female walking the dog and the people at the house because of the work that we did, the public did, and the media did. I think that can't go un-talked about here. That was remarkable that people recognized her just what we wanted to happen happened.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A couple of months ago -- (INAUDIBLE).

FITZGERALD: She left by foot, the scene. The suspect has several vehicles. We are currently evaluating the vehicles.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did she become a target of this alleged suspect? FITZGERALD: We were just briefed on that by our detectives. That is

what they are trying to figure out with the interviews of the person we have arrested, Mr. Patterson, and the interviews with Jayme.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does he have ties to Barron?

FITZGERALD: He does have a tie to Barron County.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Any signs of physical abuse?

FITZGERALD: I do not know the answer to that. All I know is she is medically cleared at this time so she is available to the detectives so she is available for the interview so that we can bring her home.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, what steps did the suspect take to not get caught?

FITZGERALD: We can't comment on that yet. At this point, we haven't been briefed on that. We know that he has taken some measures to avoid detection from both law enforcement and the public.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was he in one area the whole time with Jayme?

FITZGERALD: We don't know that. It appears that way, but we don't know. We can't confirm that completely.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There was a 911 call made from the home. Do we know who made the 911 call?

FITZGERALD: At this time, I haven't been told who made that 911 call.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's a very emotional day. Describe the emotions when you found out that she was found. I can see it on everyone's faces.

FITZGERALD: I mean, first, it was unreal and is it true. When we confirmed with Sheriff Dalbec's team that it was her, my legs started to shake, man. It was awesome. It was just the stress and relief -- it was just awesome. I don't have a different word. It was just fabulous. It was just great.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: I don't know. My wife and kids are here. I have to be careful.

(LAUGHTER)

But it was pretty -- it ranks right up there. I'll tell you that. It was awesome to call Diane, to tell the D.A., to talk to these guys

that have been -- they are not just cops. They are part of this community. When special agent in charge, Justin Tolomeo, said we are part of this community, and they have been part of this community, they have been part of it for 88 days. They didn't come here Monday until noon and come back on Friday. They worked every single day of the week on this case. It was a tremendous effort by these people behind me. This is a team. You guys are part of it. So, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: There was no one else in the home.

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: He was -- (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where was Mr. Patterson --

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: He was just down the road from the residence.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he surrender peacefully?

FITZGERALD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was he looking for her?

FITZGERALD: No, I don't believe so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At this point, has he confessed to anything?

FITZGERALD: He is being interviewed. I don't know the answer to that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did Jayme identify the suspect? (INAUDIBLE)

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that question, either.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does he own the house?

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that. If you mean, does he own the house, I don't know the answer to that.

[11:25:09] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know if Jayme was inside the home when her parents were killed?

FITZGERALD: Jayme was in the house when her parents were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: No. That's as we speak right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff, who was your first telephone call to?

FITZGERALD: Good question. My chief deputy.

(LAUGHTER)

I had to remember.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: The family's reaction, we were able to coordinate efforts on that because we had a reunification plan in place. We were able to do the family. Some of the family was at a basketball game here in Barron. We sent three teams out. I got to tell Jennifer Smith. We had a sheriff and a detective tell the family, and then my chief deputy told the family at the basketball game. They were -- they had heard about the fake news. They thought we were coming to confirm that. It wasn't her, don't worry. When we said she was found safe and alive, tears and lots of hugs.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff, why do you think she was -- (INAUDIBLE)

FITZGERALD: Based on limited information I have, I believe she was the target.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: From our detectives. I don't know how they got the information.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did they have contact on social media?

FITZGERALD: Doesn't appear to be.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff, can you talk about -- (INAUDIBLE)

FITZGERALD: Expand on that. Like, what did the suspect do?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: So I don't know what he did right afterwards, what he did with Jayme immediately after. I don't know where they went. I don't know if there was a secondary location. That's again what our detectives --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you recovered a weapon?

FITZGERALD: Have we recovered a weapon? I don't know that at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sheriff, why did you never lose hope that she was alive?

FITZGERALD: She is a 13-year-old girl and I am the sheriff of this county. My job is to make sure everybody is safe. These guys take the same oath. There's no reason to give up hope. We didn't have evidence to show she was injured or that she was hurt at the scene. There was no reason to give up hope. That tree lighting ceremony at the school, those kids believed. And when kids believe, it is easy for adults to believe.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does Patterson have mental health issues?

FITZGERALD: I have no idea on that question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you figured out where he lives, the area, the type of home that --

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: It's a home in a remote area. That's all I know. Outside of Gordon, Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she there the entire time or --

FITZGERALD: We don't know that answer.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: I don't have an answer of how long.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did the suspect know Jayme in the first place?

FITZGERALD: I do not know that answer. Our detectives are figuring that out as we speak.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He didn't know her parents at all?

FITZGERALD: We don't believe there was contact there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you mean by contact. Do you mean physical contact?

FITZGERALD: Or any, any

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: There doesn't appear to be.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You think he went there with the intention of abducting her and did whatever he had to do to do so?

FITZGERALD: It appears that way.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the 911 call pick up the audio that --

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: No.

Two more. Two more questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why do you think this investigation was so difficult?

FITZGERALD: I think because of the steps he took. What we've been briefed on. Again, I can't comment until we confirm a lot of that. I don't want to tell you something and have to change my story. But it's a remote area. There's a lot of houses in that area. He not only concealed his identity from us, it appears he concealed her from other people, also, his friends --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that. That's a question I don't know the answer to.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was Patterson employed? If so, what did he do?

FITZGERALD: He was not employed at this current time.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know how far she had to walk?

FITZGERALD: I don't know. We don't have that answer.

(CROSSTALK)

FITZGERALD: There doesn't appear to have a connection.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That brave little girl. Can you tell us anything about what the last three months have been like for her? Was there fear in her eyes?

FITZGERALD: I have not seen her, talked to her. Again, that process is taking part.

We will be back at 4:00. Thank you guys all again. Appreciate it.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: "Just awesome," those will be the memorable words coming from the sheriff of Barron County in his reaction and how he felt when they got the news that Jayme Closs was alive after three months being abducted and being held, when she was held.

Joining me right now, CNN law enforcement analyst, James Gagliano, retired FBI agent, Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI.

[11:30:09] Guys, it's great to have you here.