NO ONE knows exactly why Jake Patterson picked Jayme Closs — or why he decided to kill her parents and to kidnap her.
But the news from a Wisconsin courtroom today is that Patterson simply saw the 13-year-old get on a bus.
Chilling news for any person who loves a child.
There are many lessons to learn from the story of the Closs family and Patterson.
Probably the most important is that we need to teach our children how critical it is that they know how to recognize a potentially dangerous situation — and what they can do if they are assaulted or kidnapped.
It is the kind of advice that we wish we did not have to share with our children. We wish their lives could be full of the innocence and carefree days we hoped they would have.
But this is just another example of why we can’t, not anymore.
But there is another issue to consider — what do we as a community do to protect our children? How do we battle the odds that someone will hurt them?
The first is simple on the surface. The more adults there are keeping their eyes open when children are going to or leaving school, or when they are inside a classroom, the better.
Should they be armed? The debate is still on about that. But they should be there, trained and ready.
Bad news is that keeping officers on duty in schools is expensive. But we might have to start thinking about taking those measures to protect this community’s most valuable resource, its children.
And then there is the other, more intangible, issue to consider.
Take a look at the number of sex offenders in Mercer County. It will give you pause.
And what is really scary is that those lists do not always alert authorities to where the real dangers are. Patterson was on no such list.
But if you are counting the odds and trying to address the safety of the community’s children, sex offender lists, well, they matter.
There is always a bunch of reaction whenever someone points out that sex offenders live among us. There are people who say that they deserve a chance to live their lives when they have served their time. They also say the same about those who have been in prison for other crimes.
And they are right to a certain extent. There has to be a place for people to go and to rehabilitate themselves if we want to keep them from turning back to crime.
But what is often interesting is that those same people do not always have the same reaction when those sex offenders — or halfway houses — are in their own neighborhoods.
But that debate is for another day.
As we hear more and more stories about sexual assaults and violent attacks, we have to be much more careful about how we protect our children.
And that means the rules have got to be enforced when it comes to sex offenders.
They should not live near schools, after school programs or anywhere even close to where children congregate. And they must be watched, carefully.
And those who are multiple offenders, they should not see the light of day, whether that means treatment or jail.
No mercy. No excuses. No tolerance.
And we can help, too, as a community.
We can watch out for our children and those in our neighborhoods.
If it doesn’t seem right, we have to teach our children to speak up.
And if we see something, or suspect something, we have to say something.
Jayme Closs is one of the lucky ones.
We need to do everything we can to make sure the next sad story is not in Mercer County.