When Lt. Wayne Smith heard Thursday night that Jayme Closs had been found alive, he felt a tremendous sense of relief for her family and his fellow law enforcement officers.
“I’m pretty sure everyone is excited and happy that they were able to bring Jayme home,” Smith said.
Closs, 13, of Barron, went missing Oct. 15. She was not seen or heard from for nearly three months until she was found Thursday in Gordon, a small town in northwestern Wisconsin.
Authorities have arrested suspect Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, of Gordon, in connection with Closs’ disappearance. Her parents, James, 56, and Denise, 46, were found dead of gunshot wounds in their home, and the front door had been shot to gain entry.
Smith, a lieutenant with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, had responded along with two other local sheriff’s officials to a statewide request from Barron County for help with the investigation in late October.
As many as 2,000 volunteers, including scores of law enforcement members, conducted a ground search in Barron County. Detective Sgt. Ben Oetzman and then-Detective Sgt. Jason Kocovsky joined Smith in an expedition north to Barron County from Oct. 24-26 to help alleviate staffing shortages there.
“It was a heartwarming response,” Smith said, recalling how various investigators from all over Wisconsin converged to assist Barron County authorities.
The three men assisted with the investigation into Closs’ disappearance by combing through hundreds of tips from the public and ranking those “in order to cover as many as possible in a timely fashion,” Smith said.
Various authorities working together “demonstrates how good of a working climate we have with the law enforcement agencies in this state,” Smith said.
Although Smith, Kocovsky and Oetzman were strangers in Barron County, they recognized several law enforcement officials and worked closely with them, Smith said.
Smith added that help from the general public and the Wisconsin Association for Homicide Investigations group was crucial in locating Closs.
“Not just Wisconsin law enforcement, but just Wisconsin people in general kind of meet up and come together to help one another,” Smith said.