Sheriff: Jayme Closs copycat abduction possible motive in Chippewa County murders

Authorities say the murders of four people in two separate shootings in western Wisconsin over the weekend may have been an attempt to copy the abduction of 13-year-old Jayme Closs last fall. 

Sunday night, law enforcement officers learned two people were found dead and two more were injured at a home in Lake Hallie. A short time later, three more people were found dead in a duplex in the nearby town of Lafayette. The suspected shooter was among the dead. 

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk identified the suspected shooter in all four murders as 33-year-old Ritchie German Jr. 

The sheriff said German shot his mother, 66-year-old Bridget German; his brother, 32-year-old Douglas German; and his nephew, 8-year-old Calvin Harris at the family’s home in Lafayette. All three were shot in the head and died instantly.

Investigators believe the first three murders occurred sometime before Saturday morning. 

At some point after shooting his family, Ritchie then took his brother’s car and drove to a home in Lake Hallie. He parked on the street, walked up with a shotgun and discharged it through the door. Once inside, he shot Mai Chang Vang, 39, and Teng Vang, 51. Both victims survived. 

Ritchie then shot and killed 24-year-old Laile Vang before turning the gun on himself. 

When deputies arrived at the house, they found four minors hiding from the gunfire. They were uninjured. 

Kowalczyk said the evidence suggests Ritchie did not know the Vang family before arriving at their home Sunday night. He had texted Laile before, but she reportedly responded to the messages saying that she did not know him. Investigators are still examining his phone and those of the victims. 

The sheriff said the evidence suggest abduction could have been a possible motive in the case. He said the case is similar in nature to the abduction of Jayme Closs. Jake Patterson abducted Closs last October after he broke into her home and killed both her parents, holding her captive for 88 days before she escaped. 

Family members described Ritchie to investigators as a loner. He lived with his mother off and on at the house in Lafayette, but did not appear to have any friends, a job, a car or a permanent address. 

Investigators are still trying to piece together what led to the murders. Anyone with information or who has had contact with Ritchie recently is asked to contact the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office at 715-726-4563.