BARRON, WIS. – Nearly two dozen relatives of Jayme Closs packed into a courtroom here Wednesday and got their first look at the man charged with kidnapping the girl after breaking into her house and executing her parents in the dark of an October morning.
Jake T. Patterson acknowledged only his father and a couple other family members when he walked into a Barron County courtroom in an orange jail jumpsuit, his wrists bound.
Closs’ family, there to support 13-year-old Jayme and seek justice for the deaths of James and Denise Closs, sat silently as Patterson, 21, swiveled his chair and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Patterson is accused of holding Jayme captive for nearly three months in his family’s cabin an hour’s drive north of the Closs home until Jan. 10, when she escaped and quickly was helped to safety by a woman walking her dog.
Patterson, who had left the cabin before Jayme fled, was soon apprehended by law enforcement as he drove in the area nearby, apparently looking for the girl, authorities have said.
At Wednesday’s hearing, before Judge James Babler in Barron County Circuit Court, prosecutors had planned to make the case that they had enough evidence against Patterson to proceed to trial.
But when Patterson told Babler that he was waiving his right to such a proceeding, the judge moved to schedule a plea hearing for March 27 at 1 p.m., and adjourned court after 3 minutes.
In the brief time he was in court, Patterson answered “yes” or “no” to a series of routine questions from the judge, nodding at times behind the defense table as he conferred with attorneys. After adjournment, he gave a brief nod to his father, Patrick Patterson, and other relatives, who lingered for several minutes afterward.
As the family was escorted by law enforcement to the courthouse parking lot, they faced a gaggle of reporters and photographers from across the country. When one reporter asked Patrick Patterson if there was anything he wanted to say, he responded “Pray for Jayme’s family.”
Jake Patterson, who remains jailed in lieu of $5 million bail, has yet to enter a plea to the charges. He would likely do so at the March 27 hearing. If he declines, the court would enter a “not guilty” plea on his behalf.
The criminal complaint filed last month against him says he confessed to the killings and kidnapping under questioning by a Barron County sheriff’s detective. What has yet to surface is a motive for the crimes.
According to the complaint, Patterson picked Jayme at random after seeing her board a school bus as he headed to work one morning last fall. He didn’t know her name or know anybody at her house, but he told authorities that he knew he wanted to take her.
Twice he approached the Closs home off Hwy. 8 with the intention of kidnapping Jayme, the complaint said. But both times, he was scared off by cars in the driveway or by the sight of people walking around inside the house.
But near 1 a.m. on Oct. 15, he approached the Closs house for a third time, according to the complaint. It was then that he allegedly fatally shot James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, and grabbed Jayme, who was held captive at the cabin outside Gordon, Wis., in southern Douglas County.
Prosecutors from Douglas County initially said they were considering additional charges against Patterson for any crimes he may have committed there. Late last month, however, they announced no further charges would be filed for now, possibly out of concern for Jayme’s privacy in light of the high-profile nature of the case. Jayme’s name and photo appeared on many media platforms around the world as part of the massive search for her.
It’s possible, however, that prosecutors might not need to file additional charges to win a conviction and put Patterson in prison for the rest of his life.
The two counts of first-degree intentional homicide that Patterson faces each call for a sentence of life in prison. The kidnapping and armed burglary charges call for 40 years and up to 15 years in prison, respectively.
Jayme was reunited with family members shortly after she escaped, and has been living with an aunt in Barron, spending most of her time with loved ones.
Earlier this week, her family released a photograph on Facebook showing Jayme being treated to a steak dinner by her grandfather. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Wednesday that Jayme spent time over the weekend playing outside and being pulled in a sled.