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Jake Patterson charged with kidnapping, murder in Jayme Closs case

Jake Patterson, alleged kidnapper of Jayme Closs, make his first court appearance in court with Judge James C Babler presiding Monday in Barron, Wis. Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Minneapolis Star Tribune1 / 3
Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright talks to the media following Jake Thomas Patterson's initial court appearance in Barron County Circuit Court. Behind Wright is Douglas County District Attorney Mark A. Fruehauf. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 3
Jake Patterson3 / 3

BARRON, Wis. — Jake Thomas Patterson told investigators that he decided to abduct 13-year-old Jayme Closs after seeing her get on a school bus as he drove to work, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

The 21-year-old Gordon, Wis., man allegedly confessed to investigators that he immediately “knew that was the girl he was going to take” and spent several weeks planning every detail of a crime that would leave no evidence behind.

The complaint alleges that Patterson shaved his head, purchased a mask and made modifications to his car before taking Jayme from her Barron home in the dark of night on Oct. 15. He allegedly shot each of her parents, James and Denise, once in the head after forcibly entering their home.

The complaint states that Patterson took Jayme in the trunk of his car to his home, 14166 S. Eau Claire Acres Circle, and regularly required her to hide under his bed, barricaded by storage bins containing barbell weights, whenever he had visitors over or needed to leave the residence.

Patterson, who was arrested Jan. 10 after Closs escaped from his remote Gordon home where she was being held, was charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, as well as kidnapping and burglary.

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He faces a mandatory life sentence in prison if convicted on either homicide charge. The kidnapping carries 40 years, while burglary has a maximum term of 15 years.

Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler set Patterson’s bail at $5 million during an initial court appearance Monday afternoon. A preliminary hearing on the charges was scheduled for Feb. 6.

Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright, who heads a five-member prosecution team that also includes Douglas County Attorney Mark Fruehauf, said the case presents a chilling set of allegations that “gives us all a little pause.”

“We have two parents of a 13-year-old who are deceased,” he said. “We have a 13-year-old who was abducted for 88 days, against her will, forcibly. It doesn’t get any more serious than that. And I assure you that these prosecutors here want justice for both James and Denise and for Jayme.”

Patterson still could face additional charges stemming from alleged crimes in Douglas County. Fruehauf said he is still reviewing reports and is hoping to have a decision before Patterson’s next court appearance.

Jake Patterson appears with his attorney in jail via video. Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Minneapolis Star Tribune

Spotted getting on the bus

The 12-page complaint states that Patterson told police he had no interaction with Jayme or her parents before the abduction, that he didn’t know Jayme’s name until he had taken her and that he learned of her parents’ names from news reports.

According to the complaint, Patterson told police that he first saw Jayme getting on a school bus along U.S. Highway 8 while on his way to work at the Saputo Cheese USA Factory near Almena, Wis., where he worked for just two days. The complaint doesn’t indicate the date of the initial sighting, but mentions it being approximately two weeks before Jayme’s abduction.

Authorities said Patterson immediately started making plans. He took his father’s 12-gauge shotgun, which he selected because he felt that it would inflict the most damage on someone and would be the best choice for killing a person, the complaint states. He bought a mask at Walmart.

He made modifications to his vehicle, described in the complaint as an older, red Ford Taurus, and stole a license plate from another car to conceal his identity. He said that he shaved his head and showered before leaving the house so that he wouldn’t leave any DNA or hair at the scene. He wore gloves so there would be no fingerprints on the shotgun, according to the complaint.

Patterson also told police that he visited the Closs home twice previously but that he had been scared off each time, the complaint states.

The abduction

Jayme Closs told investigators that she was asleep in her bedroom on the night of the abduction when her dog started barking, the complaint states. She got up and noticed that someone was parked in the driveway, so she woke up her parents. Her father went to investigate, Jayme told police, while she and her mother hid in the bathroom.

The criminal complaint states that Patterson told police he parked in the driveway at the Closs home. As he walked up to the front door, he noticed James Closs standing in the window. Patterson pounded on the front door, and Closs asked him to identify himself. He then raised the shotgun and fired at Closs, who collapsed to the ground. Patterson told police he then broke into the house, according to the complaint.

Patterson said he then broke through a locked and barricaded door to the home’s bathroom, where he found Denise Closs in the bathtub behind a shower curtain with her arms around Jayme, according to the complaint.

Denise Closs was on the phone with 911, Jayme told investigators, and Patterson told her to hang up, the complaint states.

Patterson told police that he then handed Denise Closs a roll of duct tape and told her to tape Jayme’s mouth but that she struggled, so he finished the job, taping Jayme’s mouth, wrists and ankles. He picked up Jayme from the bathtub and started to leave before aiming his shotgun at Denise Closs’ head and firing, the complaint states.

Patterson then dragged Jayme out to his car and locked her in the trunk, the complaint states. He told police he got in the car, removed his mask and headed toward Barron. Within seconds after leaving the Closs home with Jayme in the trunk, he encountered three passing squad cars with lights and sirens on and yielded to them, Patterson told police.

According to the complaint, Barron County sheriff’s deputies reported seeing an older Ford Taurus-style vehicle while en route to the Closs residence shortly before 1 a.m. on Oct. 15 and that the car yielded to their squad cars. The deputies reported that it was the only car they saw traveling in the opposite direction that night.

Patterson told police he was determined to kidnap Jayme that night and had planned to kill anyone in the house because he didn’t want to leave any eyewitnesses, the complaint states. Patterson said that he would have killed police as well, if needed. He told police he was only at the Closs home for about four minutes.

Kept under the bed

The house that Jake Patterson allegedly held Jayme Closs in sits empty on Monday afternoon in Gordon. Jed Carlson / DNT

The complaint alleges that Patterson drove Jayme to his home in Gordon, where he told police that he told her to change into his sister’s pajamas before burning her clothing along with the duct tape and the gloves he was wearing.

Patterson told police that he kept Jayme in the space underneath his twin bed, with large plastic totes weighed down by barbells to make it harder for her to get out. He said that he made Jayme stay under the bed for periods of up to 12 hours without food, water or bathroom breaks, the complaint states, including on one occasion when he visited his grandparents in Superior for Christmas.

Jayme told investigators that Patterson threatened her with harm if she left the space under the bed or attempted to escape, the complaint states. She said Patterson on one occasion hit her across the back with “something used to clean blinds,” and told her that “the punishment would be worse next time.”

Patterson told police that when his father visited the house, he kept Jayme under the bed with the totes and weights in place and turned up the radio to cover up any noise she might make.

On Jan. 10, the day Jayme was found, she told investigators that Patterson told her he was leaving for five to six hours and that she was able to push the tote bins away. She told police that she put on a pair of Patterson’s shoes, left the house and walked toward the road, where she approached a woman —retired child protection social worker Jeanne Nutter — walking a dog.

Nutter described Jayme to investigators as being in shock, with matted hair and messy clothes and wearing large men’s shoes that made it difficult to walk.

According to the complaint, Jayme identified herself and told Nutter that she didn’t know where she was, that “he killed my parents” and asked Nutter to “please help — I want to go home.”

Nutter took Jayme to the home of nearby neighbors, Peter and Kristin Kasinskas, where they called 911.

Jayme identified Patterson as the man who killed her parents and had kidnapped her. Shortly afterward, Douglas County sheriff’s deputies stopped a vehicle that matched the description Jayme had given.

Patterson, who was alone in the vehicle, told deputies that he knew what the stop was about and that “I did it,” the complaint states. Patterson was then arrested without incident.

In a subsequent interview, Patterson allegedly stated that he returned home that day after being gone for a few hours to find Jayme wasn’t at the house. He said that he got in his car and began looking for her. He told police that he was returning home when police stopped him, and at that point he knew he had been caught, the complaint states.

Patterson told police that he had assumed he had gotten away with the abduction and killings after the first two weeks, the complaint states. He initially kept the shotgun in his house in case police came, he told investigators, but eventually he placed it in the trunk of a car on the property.

Police recovered a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun from the scene.

Patterson also told police that he never would have been caught if he had planned everything perfectly, the complaint states.

The arraignment

Patterson appeared before Judge Babler via video from the attached Barron County Jail on Monday afternoon. The initial appearance lasted fewer than 10 minutes.

Patterson, wearing an orange jumpsuit, sat with an attorney in the jail. He answered “yes, sir” or “no, sir” to a series of routine questions from the judge.

Several members of the Closs family were present for the hearing, as were dozens of television cameras and news reporters who filled the courthouse rotunda for a subsequent news conference.

Wright asked for the $5 million bail figure, citing the gravity of the offenses, Patterson’s minimal ties to Barron County and the degree to which he allegedly attempted to conceal his actions.

“All of this indicates the defendant is a flight risk, a danger to the public and he is unlikely to further return for further court proceedings without an exceedingly high bail,” the prosecutor argued.

Public defender Charles Glynn simply asked for a “lesser amount” and said he anticipates filing a future motion to address bail. Babler, in the interim, granted Wright’s request, citing the possible life sentence faced by Patterson.

“Substantial cash bail is necessary to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court,” the judge said.

Patterson waived a 10-day deadline to appear for a preliminary hearing. When that proceeding occurs on Feb. 6, prosecutors will be required to prove probable cause in order for the judge to bind him over for arraignment.

Wright said he doesn’t anticipate requiring Jayme to testify in the near future, but did not rule out the possibility that she would need to take the stand at trial or any other hearing.

Attorneys on either side of the case have said they expect Patterson will receive a fair trial and will limit their comment in the ongoing case.

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