Prosecutors in Douglas County, where 13-year-old Jayme Closs was held captive after her abduction last October, announced Friday they will not file charges against the perpetrator any time soon.
Jake T. Patterson is already being held in Barron County on charges of breaking into the Closs’ home, killing Jayme’s parents and kidnapping the girl — all crimes he has confessed to, authorities said.
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf said in a statement that a decision on whether to file criminal charges in his county “involves the consideration of multiple factors, including the existence of other charges and victim-related concerns.”
Fruehauf said in the statement that his office can charge Patterson later, however — at any time within the statute of limitations for any crimes he may have committed. The statement did not indicate what those charges could be.
According to a criminal complaint filed earlier this month in Barron, Wis., Patterson shot Denise and James Closs at their home on the outskirts of Barron in the early morning hours of Oct. 15. The complaint says he then abducted Jayme and held her captive at his family’s cabin outside Gordon, Wis., in southern Douglas County. After going missing for 88 days, Jayme escaped the afternoon of Jan. 10 and sought help from neighbors.
Patterson, who was driving in the area looking for the girl, was arrested a short time later.
Prosecutors from Douglas County said days later that they were considering whether to file additional charges against Patterson for any crimes he may have committed there.
Their decision would be a sensitive one, experts said later, because of the high-profile nature of the case. Jayme’s name and photo appeared on many media platforms as part of a massive search for her.
Fruehauf’s statement “means that they are properly concerned with [Jayme’s] dignity and her privacy and that if additional charges served no legal purpose, then there’s no sense bringing them right now,” said Daniel Blinka, a Marquette University law professor who formerly prosecuted sensitive crimes.
Additional charges may not be needed to keep Patterson behind bars for the rest of his life if he is found guilty.
The two counts of first-degree intentional homicide that he’s charged with each call for a sentence of life in prison and kidnapping and armed burglary charges call for 40 years and up to 15 years in prison, respectively.
But in Wisconsin, a judge must determine what “life in prison” actually means.
It could mean never getting out, or it could mean becoming eligible for extended supervision at some point — as early as 20 years for an intentional homicide count, though that is an unlikely outcome in Patterson’s case, legal experts said.
With a six-year statute of limitations on most felonies, Blinka said, Douglas County prosecutors could wait to see how the case against Patterson in Barron County plays out before making a final decision on charges there.
“Assuming the homicide cases are resolved in favor of the state and the victim, the DA is satisfied with the penalty … then they can decide whether or not they want to go forward,” Blinka said. “Legally, this imposes no impediment to them issuing charges down the road.”
Legal experts explained that prosecutors in different counties can’t charge a defendant for substantially the same crime because that would violate the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause. So any charges against Patterson in Douglas County would have to be legally distinct from those in Barron.
Patterson is due back in court on Feb. 6.