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Wisconsin man arrested in teen’s abduction, parents’ deaths

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BARRON, Wis. — A 21-year-old man is jailed in the deaths of a Wisconsin couple he killed because he wanted to kidnap their teenage daughter, investigators said Friday, a day after the girl approached a stranger along a rural road saying she’d been abducted in October and held against her will.

Jake Thomas Patterson was taken into custody shortly after 13-year-old Jayme Closs sought help from a woman walking her dog in a rural, heavily wooded neighbourhood near the small town of Gordon, about 60 miles (96.5 kilometres) north of Barron. Jayme disappeared from her family’s home near Barron after her parents were killed Oct. 15.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said during a news conference Friday that Jayme was taken against her will. He said investigators believe Patterson killed Jayme’s parents because he wanted to abduct her, and that Patterson “planned his actions and took many steps to hide his identity.”

Fitzgerald said investigators believe the girl was “the only target” and don’t believe Patterson had any contact with the family. Douglas County Sheriff Thomas Dalbec said Patterson was jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges.

The woman who first spotted Jayme on Thursday, Jeanne Nutter, said she was walking her dog along a rural road when a disheveled teenage girl called out to her for help and quickly grabbed her. Only then did Jayme reveal her name.

Nutter said Jayme told her she had walked away from a cabin where she’d been held captive, a cabin not far from Nutter’s home.

“I was terrified, but I didn’t want to show her that,” Nutter, a social worker who spent years working in child protection, told The Associated Press on Friday. “She just yelled, ‘Please help me. I don’t know where I am. I’m lost.'”

Nutter added: “My only thought was to get her to a safe place.” The two went to the home of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas, who said Jayme was skinny and dirty, wearing shoes too big for her feet, but appeared outwardly OK.

Kristin Kasinskas, who called 911 to report the girl had been found, told the AP on Friday that Jayme had identified the suspect once she was safely inside her home.

“She said that this person’s name was Jake Patterson, he killed my parents and took me,” Kasinskas said. “She did not talk about why or how. She said she did not know him.”

Patterson lived just three doors down from Kasinskas, but Kasinskas said she didn’t realize it until police identified him as the suspect. She said she never saw Patterson on her street or in town, and doesn’t remember seeing him since he was in high school.

Kasinskas said she taught Patterson science in middle school, but added: “I don’t really remember a ton about him.”

“He seemed like a quiet kid,” she said. “I don’t recall anything that would have explained this, by any means.”

Fitzgerald said Closs was taken to a hospital but has since been medically cleared and released. She was being interviewed by law enforcement, the sheriff said.

Jayme went missing after police discovered someone had broken into the family’s home outside Barron and fatally shot her parents, James and Denise Closs. Jayme was nowhere to be found. The Barron County Sheriff’s Department said the girl had likely been abducted.

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, but it yielded no clues.

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 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. Smart 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,” Fitzgerald said at the time.

On Friday, Smart posted on her Instagram account that it was a “miracle” Jayme had been found alive. Smart said the girl’s family should be given “space and privacy on their road to finding a new sense of normal and moving forward.”

“Whatever other details may surface, the most important will still remain that she is alive,” Smart said.

During the 20 minutes Jayme was in their home, Peter and Kristin Kasinskas said they tried to make her feel more comfortable. They offered her water and food, but she declined both. Jayme was quiet, her emotions “pretty flat,” Peter Kasinskas said.

Jayme told the couple she didn’t know where she was or anything about Gordon, a town home to about 644 people in a heavily forested region where logging in the top industry. From what she told them, they believed she was there for most of her disappearance.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on its website that Jayme was found in the town at 4:43 p.m. Thursday, and that a suspect was taken into custody 11 minutes later.

Jayme’s grandfather, Robert Naiberg, told the AP on Friday that he’d been praying for months for the call he received Thursday about his granddaughter being found alive.

Naiberg said his daughter called him with the news, saying Jayme reported having been held by “a guy in the woods” but was able to escape.

Sue Allard, Jayme’s aunt, told the Star Tribune newspaper that she could barely express her joy after learning the news Thursday night.

“Praise the Lord,” Allard said between sobs. “It’s the news we’ve been waiting on for three months. I can’t wait to get my arms around her. I just can’t wait.”

___

For the latest updates on the story: https://apnews.com/c529a15d30f845c6adf6ccd478df3a5a

___

Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Madison and Amy Forliti in Gordon also contributed to this report.

Jeff Baenen And Gretchen Ehlke, The Associated Press


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First-time novelist Ian Williams wins $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize

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TORONTO — First-time novelist Ian Williams singled out a special member of the audience as he accepted the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize — Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood.

Williams choked back tears as he took to the stage to receive the honour at a glitzy Toronto gala on Monday night for his debut novel, “Reproduction.”

“I’ve got notes here for people I need to thank, but maybe I’ll just start with my heart first,” Williams said. “Margaret Atwood over there is the first book I bought with my own money at a bookstore in Brampton.”

“Reproduction” traces the ties that bind a cross-cultural chosen family in Williams’ hometown of Brampton, Ont.

The tale begins when a sober-minded teenager from a small island nation and the listless heir to a German family fortune meet in the hospital room where their mothers lay dying.

From there, Williams unspools a narrative so entangled it strains against novelistic convention.

Jury members praised the Vancouver-based writer for his “masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography.”

“Reproduction,” published by Random House Canada, was a finalist for this year’s Amazon First Novel Award.

Williams’ short-fiction collection, “Not Anyone’s Anything” won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award in 2012, and he’s been a rising star in poetry circles. His 2013 collection, “Personals,” was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award.

Williams was the 2014-2015 writer-in-residence in the University of Calgary’s distinguished writers program, and has held numerous other fellowships and residencies.

He is currently a Griffin Poetry Prize trustee and associate professor of poetry in University of British Columbia’s creative writing program.

Williams beat out titles by David Bezmozgis, Michael Crummey, Megan Gail Coles, Alix Ohlin and Steven Price.

Before the Giller winner was announced, a who’s who of Canada’s cultural scene walked the Giller red carpet at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

Giller executive director Elana Rabinovitch said this year’s short list was distinct not only because there were six finalists instead of the usual five, but for the range of time periods, styles and geography the books represent.

“(The finalists) come from everywhere and these voices are strong and powerful and resonant,” Rabinovitch said.

Atwood said she chose to celebrate her 80th birthday at the literary bash at Rabinovitch’s behest.

“Elana made me do it,” Atwood told reporters with a laugh.

As her global book tour for “The Testaments” winds down, Atwood said she’s hoping to catch up on the latest Canadian reads.

“There’s some interesting non-fiction books as well, and I would say quite a lot of fiction,” Atwood said. “I haven’t ploughed my way through it, but I will.”

Singer-songwriter and actress Jann Arden, who hosted the televised night’s festivities, serenaded Atwood with a birthday tune.

“Happy birthday to you. You write such good books,” Arden crooned. “Now Canada’s famous for more than just maple syrup.”

The six finalists were chosen from 117 submissions by a jury consisting of Canadian writers Donna Bailey Nurse, Randy Boyagoda and Jose Teodoro, Scottish-Sierra Leonean author Aminatta Forna and Bosnian-American author Aleksandar (Sasha) Hemon.

The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

Last year’s winner was Esi Edugyan for “Washington Black.”

This report by The Canadian Press was originally published Nov. 18, 2019.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press








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Alberta government firing election commissioner who was investigating leadership

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it’s not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is strictly about saving money.

“This restructuring is about finding efficiencies and ensuring that we have the most defensible process and structure going forward,” Toews said Monday.

“This structural change will not affect ongoing investigations. We believe that it’s critical to protect the integrity of democracy in this province.”

Toews replied “absolutely not” when asked if Gibson’s investigation into the UCP and the party’s 2017 leadership campaign played any role in the decision to fire him.

Gibson’s firing as election watchdog is contained in an omnibus bill introduced in the house Monday that is aimed at reducing spending and duplication across government.

If the bill passes, Gibson’s contract — which currently runs to 2023 — will be terminated as soon as it is proclaimed into law. His job and five staff positions are then to be transferred to current chief electoral officer Glen Resler at an expected saving of $1 million over five years.

Resler would be responsible for hiring a new election commissioner.

Toews said it would be the decision of that office whether to proceed with existing investigations, which would include the ongoing one into the United Conservatives.

“The chief electoral officer will have full ability to rehire the existing commissioner (if he so chooses),” Toews said.

“We will have absolutely no input into that.”

Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former NDP government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising.

The New Democrats then hired Gibson. He was making $195,000 a year.

Gibson’s highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Jason Kenney. Kenney became premier when the UCP was voted into power earlier this year.

The investigation focuses on the campaign of leadership candidate Jeff Callaway. Internal documents have revealed that Kenney’s campaign team worked in lockstep with Callaway’s campaign as Callaway attacked Kenney’s main rival, Brian Jean. Callaway dropped out of the race late to throw his support to Kenney.

Documents show Kenney’s team shared talking points and a time for Callaway to drop out, but Kenney has said that is normal communication among campaign teams.

Gibson has issued more than $200,000 in fines tied to fundraising violations in the Callaway campaign. Some donors to Callaway’s campaign broke the law by donating money provided to them by someone else.

The RCMP has been conducting a separate investigation into whether voter ID fraud was committed in the leadership race.

Gibson has a fractious history with Alberta’s conservative governments. He served as the chief electoral officer from 2006 to 2009. His contract was not renewed by the Progressive Conservative government of the time after he spotlighted problems with the electoral process, including that the PCs were appointing officials who monitored ballot boxes at voting stations.

Gibson sued unsuccessfully for wrongful dismissal.

In the spring of 2018, the then-Opposition UCP, tried to filibuster Gibson’s appointment as the election commissioner. It questioned whether the role was needed and, if so, whether Gibson, given his testy relations with past governments, was the right person to fill it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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