Editor’s Note: This account of events leading up to the fatal shooting of Jayme Closs’ parents, her kidnapping and its aftermath is based on official statements, the criminal complaint, other court documents, interviews with residents and other reporting from CNN and its news affiliates.
Jake Patterson lasted only two days as a temp at the Saputo cheese factory in Almena, Wisconsin, a largely forgettable stint but for a brief stop behind a school bus while driving to work on a desolate stretch of US Highway 8.
The chance encounter provided his first glimpse of a green-eyed, strawberry-blond middle-school student who boarded the bus that October morning.
He didn’t know her name. Nor did he know who lived in the nearby squat, ranch-style house with beige siding, set back from the rural Wisconsin road by a cluster of trees shedding golden leaves.
What he knew for certain, Patterson would tell investigators, was that she was “the girl he was going to take.”
She was a 13-year-old named Jayme Closs. And the story of her parents’ gruesome murders and her own kidnapping and escape after 87 days in captivity would soon grip the nation.
On the third visit, he would not leave alone
Behind the wheel of his old Ford Taurus, facing the taillights on the idling bus, Patterson’s elaborate plot began to take shape.
When it was over, he would face two charges of intentional homicide, along with kidnapping and armed burglary counts. He is being held on $5 million bail and hasn’t entered a plea.
Investigators said he provided chilling details of his crime in a lengthy confession, including his insistence he never would have been caught had he just “planned everything perfectly.”
Still, by his own admission, Patterson “put quite a bit of thought” into every detail.
For one, he took his father’s 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun, a fairly common weapon he believed would be hard to track. He grabbed half a dozen shotgun shells, then put on gloves and wiped them for prints. At Walmart, he picked up a black balaclava.
He shaved his face and head, so he’d leave no forensic evidence. At one point, he stole the plates from a parked car, then switched them with his own. He disconnected his car’s dome light to help conceal his appearance. He cut a cord that could unlock the trunk from the inside.
Twice, Patterson drove to Jayme’s home in Barron, a northwestern Wisconsin city of 3,300 residents about 90 miles east of Minneapolis. Cars in the driveway scared him away the first time. A night or two later, he aborted his plan after spotting lights and people in the house.
On October 15, though, he would not leave alone.
She knew her father was dead
He wore brown, steel-toed boots, a black jacket and jeans. The mask concealed his round, bespectacled face. Gloves covered his hands. The Taurus coasted into the Closs family driveway early that Monday morning with its headlights off.
Jayme was asleep in her bedroom when her dog, Molly, started barking. She got up, saw the car and rushed to wake her parents. Her father James, 56, headed for the front door.
Patterson shifted into park, stepped out quietly and walked to the redbrick entrance stairs. Fallen leaves surrounded decorative pumpkins and a pair of blue lawn chairs.
Jayme and her mother Denise, 46, took cover in the bathroom. They locked and barricaded the door with a cabinet drawer. Mother and daughter stepped into the tub and swung shut the shower curtain.
Behind white blinds at a window to the left of the front door, James Closs stood with a flashlight.
Get on the ground, Patterson hollered.
James Closs did not move. His flashlight illuminated the window.
Patterson climbed the brick stairs and opened the storm door. He pounded on the wooden door. Jayme’s father looked at him through a small, wrought iron-encased window pane in the middle of the door.
Show me your badge, James Closs demanded, mistaking Patterson for a cop.
He stared through the glass, down the chrome-plated shotgun barrel. Patterson pulled the trigger.
The blast shook Jayme, who cowered in the tub. She knew her father was dead. Her mother dialed 911 on her cell phone.
He turned his head and squeezed the trigger
It was about 12:53 a.m. when the call came into the Barron County Dispatch Center, three miles from the Closs family home. No one spoke. Dispatchers heard screaming. One dispatcher returned the call and got Denise Closs’ voicemail.
Outside, Patterson tried to break open the door. He ejected a spent shell and unloaded a blast toward the doorknob. He pushed the door open and stepped over James Closs’ body.
A flashlight in hand, Patterson stalked the rooms. One door wouldn’t budge. He checked the rest of the house: vacant. He returned to the bolted door. He couldn’t kick it open. He rammed it with his shoulder, over and over. The drawer. It took 10 to 15 blows from the upper half of his 6-foot, 215-pound frame before it split in two.
He ripped down the shower curtain. Denise Closs clung to her daughter in what the intruder would describe as a “bear hug.”
He handed Denise Closs duct tape and ordered her to cover her daughter’s mouth. When she struggled, Patterson rested his weapon on the sink and did it himself. He also bound Jayme’s wrists and ankles and helped her out of the tub.
He pointed the shotgun at her mother’s head and squeezed the trigger as he turned his head away.
Patterson then grabbed the 5-foot, 100-pound teenager and nearly slipped on the bloodied floor on the way out. He dragged her across the yard and forced her into the trunk of the Taurus. In all, he spent four minutes at the house.
Three Barron County Sheriff’s deputies were already on their way.
Patterson removed his mask. The shotgun laid next to him. He pressed the gas pedal. But only 20 seconds into his getaway, he was slowing for blinking lights and blaring sirens.
A deputy saw a Taurus yield to the passing squad cars. It wouldn’t be the last time during Jayme’s ordeal that law enforcement would encounter that car.
Patterson was ready for a gunfight, later telling investigators he “most likely would have shot at the police” if they’d stopped him.
In the trunk, Jayme heard the sirens. Then, they faded away.
At the Closs family home, deputies discovered the bodies around 1 a.m.; Jayme was gone. The deep drone of an Amber Alert soon buzzed cell phones across the state.
The door sign read: ‘Patterson’s Retreat’
Photos: Inside the house where Jayme Closs was held
For three months, police and volunteers across northern Wisconsin searched for her. Detectives chased thousands of tips. The FBI offered a $25,000 reward for information. Her parents’ employer added another $25,000.
Jayme’s photo circulated on posters. Strangers attended her parents’ funeral. Neighbors gathered at events in her honor. Relatives appealed to the public for information about where she could possibly be.
“Jayme, we need you here with us to fill that hole we have in our hearts,” her aunt, Jennifer Smith, said in a message released by relatives. “We all love you to the moon and back.”
The whole time, Patterson was holding Jayme in a cluttered, single-family home near the tiny and heavily forested town of Gordon, population 650, just 70 miles north of where she lived. A sign atop the front door greets visitors to the beige and brown two-bedroom home, set on 2.6 secluded acres: “Patterson’s Retreat,” it reads.
In the basement fireplace, he’d burned her clothes, the duct tape and his gloves. He’d had Jayme change into his sister’s pajamas. He was surprised to find no blood spatter on his boots or clothing.