Jake Patterson appears for a hearing at the Barron County Justice Center, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Barron, Wis. Patterson pleaded guilty Wednesday to the kidnapping of a 13-year-old Jayme Closs, killing her parents and keeps her prisoner in a remote cabin for three months. (Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)
BARRON, Wis. – A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty Wednesday to the kidnapping of a 13-year-old Jayme Closs and the killing of her parents, in a move that will save the girl held captive in a remote cabin for three months from the possible trauma of having to testify at his trial.
Jake Patterson, 21, sniffled, and his voice caught as he pleaded guilty to two counts of deliberate homicide and one count of kidnapping. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped one count of armed burglary. Patterson faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced May 24; Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Patterson had said that he would plead guilty in a letter this month to Minneapolis TV station that he did not want the Closs family “to worry about a trial.”
Patterson admitted kidnapping Jayme after the deaths of her parents, James and Denise Closs, on Oct. 15 in the house of the family in the near Barron, about 90 miles (145 km) in the north-east of Minneapolis. Jayme escaped in January, after 88 days in Patterson’s hut in the vicinity of the small, isolated town of Gordon, about 60 miles (97 km) of her house.
Patterson stoically replied “yes” and “yes” to repeated questions from the Barron County Judge James Gabler on the question of whether he knew what he was doing. Later, as he answered “guilty” to any count, he can be heard sniffling. He paused for a few seconds after the judge asked him about the abduction responsible for stuttering, “guilty.”
Lawyer Richard Jones told Gabler that Patterson “wanted to enter a plea from the day we met him” and brushed off strategies presented to him, including attempting to suppress his statements to the investigators.
“He rejected all that and decided that this is what he wants to do,” Jones said.
The members of the Closs family and Patterson’s father and sister all left the courthouse without comment.
According to a criminal complaint , Patterson told authorities he decided to Jayme “was the girl that he was going to take”, after he saw her on a school bus near her home. He told investigators he put the caution, including the wearing of black clothing, putting stolen license plates on his car and the care as to not leave fingerprints on his gun.
Jayme told the police that on the night of the kidnapping, the family dog barking woke her, and she went to wake up with her parents when a car came in the driveway. While her father went to the front door, Jayme and her mother hid in the bathroom, in the bath, the shower curtain pulled closed.
Patterson shot Jayme’s father, as he entered the house, found Jayme and her mother. He told detectives he wrapped tape around Jayme’s mouth and head, taped her hands behind her back and taped her ankles together, then shot her mother in the head. He told the police that he dragged Jayme out, threw her in the trunk of his car and took her to his cabin, the complaint said.
During Jayme’s time in captivity, Patterson forced her to hide under a bed when he had friends and wrote to her in tote boxes and weights, with the warning that if they moved, “bad things can happen with her.” He also turned the radio, so that visitors could not hear her, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors in Douglas County, where Jayme was held, announced shortly after Patterson’s arrest that they don’t plan to bring charges in that country — a move seen as potentially spare them the details of her treatment to the public. Patterson’s plea Wednesday increases the likelihood that data will remain private.
Authorities searched for Jayme for months and collected more than 3,500 tips. On Jan. 10, Jayme escaped from the cabin, while Patterson was gone. She then flagged down a woman who was walking with a dog and begged for help. Patterson was arrested minutes later.
Patterson grew up in the cabin, where he loved Jayme. He wrote in his high school yearbook of the plans to join the Marines after graduation, but he was kicked off barely a month after joining up. He had struggled to hold down a job after that, on a single day in a turkey plant in Barron in 2016 before quitting.
Jayme, the parents worked on the same turkey plant, but there is nothing to indicate that she knew Patterson. In the indictment, Patterson told investigators he spotted Jayme, while on his way to work at a cheese factory where he quit after two days.
The day Jayme escapes, Patterson had applied online for a job at a liquor store with a cv that wrong experience.
Laura Tancre, in near Star Prairie, said she was relieved by Patterson’s plea and “happy for the girl.” Tancre, 57, has worked in turkey plant with Jayme parents and called them “very nice people.”
“I think he must live for the deaths of both parents,” she said. “I hate for him to get out and be able to do it again.”
Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contribution of Minneapolis.
Check out AP’s complete coverage of Jayme Closs’ abduction and her parents to kill.