BARRON, Wis. – Jake Patterson stopped behind a school bus picking up students on his way to work one morning when he spotted her.
A sandy-brown-haired middle-school girl climbing aboard.
He didn’t know her name. Didn’t know who lived at her house. But he knew one thing, according to a criminal complaint: He was going to take her.
Patterson, 21, was charged Monday in Barron County Circuit Court with kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and holding her hostage at his home an hour north of here for nearly three months after shooting his way into her house and murdering her parents in the middle of an October night.
Prosecutors say he confessed his crimes to law enforcement almost as soon as they caught up with him last week, after a massive search for Jayme ended when she escaped his house near Gordon, Wis.
“I did it,” he told deputies right when they pulled him over. He confessed details to detectives a few hours later.
According to the charges, Patterson told authorities he had carefully considered and planned his crime:
He went to a nearby Walmart to buy a black balaclava mask to cover his face. He stole license plates off another car to put on his red Ford Taurus. He took out the dome light inside the Taurus so people couldn’t see him get in and out in the dark. In his trunk, he removed a light and a “glow in the dark kidnapping cord” so nobody could pull the trunk release from inside.
He grabbed his father’s 12-gauge shotgun — a popular model that he thought would be harder to trace — put on gloves to wipe it down, and took along some shells. He shaved his face and all the hair off his head and showered so he wouldn’t leave a trail of DNA.
Twice, he drove to the Closs house on the outskirts of Barron, on busy U.S. Hwy. 8, intending to kidnap Jayme. But he got scared off the first time when he saw a bunch of cars in the driveway and again later when he saw lights inside the house and people walking around.
But near 1 a.m. on Oct. 15, he approached the Closs house for the third and fateful time.
He breaks in
Patterson told authorities that he turned off the headlights and coasted the Taurus into the end of the Closs driveway before he quietly got out and approached.
Inside, Jayme heard the family dog bark and noticed someone in the driveway. She went to her parents’ room and woke them, she told authorities.
James Closs, 56, went to see what was going on.
Patterson noticed James standing at a picture window, peering outside with a flashlight, and hollered at James to get on the ground. When Patterson went to the door, he saw James looking out through a small decorative window and heard him say something like “show me your badge.”
Patterson raised the shotgun, aimed it at James’ head and pulled the trigger.
Patterson shot at the doorknob and broke in, pulled out his flashlight and walked through the house, the complaint says. Soon, he got to a barricaded bathroom door and, after 10 to 15 hits with his shoulder, knocked it open.
Ripping down the shower curtain, he found Denise Closs, who had dialed 911 on her cellphone, with her arms wrapped around Jayme, hiding in the bathtub.
Patterson pulled out some black duct tape and told Denise to tape Jayme’s mouth shut, but when she struggled he did it himself. He taped the girl’s wrists and ankles, too, then pulled her out.
He picked up his shotgun again and aimed for Denise’s head.
Patterson told investigators that he had been in the house for only about four minutes when, with the shotgun in one hand, he dragged Jayme to the car with the other. He put her in the trunk and shut it, got into his car, took off his mask and headed toward town. On his way, with his shotgun beside him in the front seat, he yielded to three passing squad cars, lights and sirens blaring. He told authorities that he likely would have shot at police if he were stopped.
Patterson drove north to the wooded house where he lived near Gordon and collected Jayme’s clothes so he could burn them. He gave her a pair of his sister’s pajamas to wear.
He cleaned out a space to hide Jayme under his twin bed, which had been pushed into the corner of his bedroom. He surrounded it with plastic totes weighted down with exercise barbells and free weights, knowing they would serve as a signal if she moved them to try to get out.
Twice, when he thought she had tried to escape, he scared her, striking a wall and screaming so she would not do it again, he told detectives. Jayme told authorities he hit her once with the handle of a tool used to clean blinds.
Left her alone at house
Patterson left his teenage hostage at the house for hours at a time when he left, once to visit grandparents in Superior, Wis., for Christmas. Sometimes, Jayme would be forced to stay in the space between the bed and the floor for up to 12 hours with no food, water or bathroom breaks, according to the complaint. When Patterson had visitors, including his father on Saturdays, he made Jayme hide there with music turned up in his room to cover any noise she might make.
If anyone learned she was there, Jayme told authorities, Patterson warned her that “bad things” would happen.
After he left Thursday to go to Haugen, Wis., Jayme apparently decided to make a run for it.
She pushed away the weighted containers, put on a pair of Patterson’s New Balance athletic shoes, each on the wrong foot, and ran outside. Moments later, a woman walking her dog encountered the girl and led her to safety.
When Patterson returned later that afternoon and found Jayme had escaped, her footprints outside, he briefly drove around looking for her. As he searched, Douglas County sheriff’s deputies pulled him over near his driveway, within minutes of Jayme finding safety at a neighbor’s place.
“If all of those pieces had not fallen into place on that particular afternoon, the outcome could have been very different,” Barron County Attorney Brian Wright said after Monday’s court hearing.
Thought he got away with it
Patterson told authorities that he assumed he’d gotten away with the crimes after he hadn’t been caught after two weeks. He learned Jayme’s name and those of her parents from the news and social media. He never would have been caught, he said, if he had planned everything perfectly.
Now in the Barron County jail, Patterson appeared in court Monday afternoon via video hookup dressed in bright orange as he sat at a table with an attorney on his defense team. He calmly answered every question from the judge during a nine-minute hearing as he sat with the charging document in front of him, his hands folded at his waist with movements to adjust his glasses or rub his face.
He was formally charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, kidnapping and armed burglary.
A relative of his sitting in the gallery gasped when the judge read the charges and again when prosecutors recounted how he planned to shoot anyone inside the house, including children if he had to.
Wright said Monday that he’s not ready to say more about what drew Patterson to Jayme. More information will be made public, he said, as the case winds its way through the judicial process.
Prosecutors also said Monday afternoon that additional charges based on unspecified allegations could be filed in Douglas County, where the house Patterson held Jayme hostage is located.
Aside from Jayme’s statement that Patterson once hit her forcefully in the back with a hard object, the court filing notes no other type of physical assault. Any charges in Douglas County, as suggested Monday by District Attorney Mark Fruehauf, could reveal otherwise.
Patterson is due back in Barron County Circuit Court on Feb. 6.
After the hearing, defense attorney Charles Glynn acknowledged his client’s confession to some “very serious” charges, but pointed out the judicial process in the case has just started.
“We have a legal obligation to explore all things,” he said, standing outside the courthouse. “We have a job to do.”
In such an emotional case, he said, it’s difficult for many “to have the patience to let the process work its way out.”
Staff writer John Reinan contributed to this report.