BARRON, Wis. - Seven months ago, the roughly 3,400 residents of Barron, Wis., awoke to shocking news.
A local couple, James and Denise Closs, had been fatally shot inside their residence on the outskirts of town. Their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme, was missing.
Authorities were tipped off by a mysterious 911 call placed from Denise’s phone in the middle of the night. But there was little evidence left at the scene to help investigators determine who had committed the heinous crimes, and why.
The tragedy gripped the town for nearly three months, grabbing national headlines as local, state and federal authorities worked the case and Jayme’s family pleaded for her safe return.
Ultimately, though, it was Jayme who rescued herself by escaping from the rural Douglas County home where she had been held captive for 88 days — later earning the title of “hero” from the Barron County sheriff and Wisconsin legislature.
On Friday, the final chapter of the story will be written.
Jake Thomas Patterson, the 21-year-old Gordon man who confessed to abducting Jayme and killing her parents, will appear in Barron County Circuit Court for sentencing. He faces a mandatory life term.
In entering his guilty pleas, Patterson was not asked to recount his actions or motivations. But both he and Jayme provided details to law enforcement in the days after she escaped and he was arrested.
Patterson told investigators that he was driving to a job he held for two days when he saw Jayme getting on a school bus along U.S. Highway 8. He did not know her or her family, but he immediately "knew that was the girl he was going to take,” according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators said he spent several weeks planning every detail of a crime that would leave no evidence behind, shaving his head, purchasing a mask, swapping license plates and even removing the dome light from his vehicle.
Most significantly, according to authorities, Patterson vowed to leave behind no witnesses when he blasted open the door of the Closs home in the dark of night on Oct. 15.
The complaint states that Patterson used his father’s shotgun to kill James Closs, 56, in the entryway of the Closs home. He proceeded into the house, finding Jayme and her mother hiding in the bathroom.
Denise, 46, scrambled to call 911 but Patterson ordered her to hang up. He duct-taped Jayme’s mouth, wrists and ankles together and then shot Denise in her presence.
Patterson then loaded Jayme in the trunk of his car and left, narrowly avoiding three responding squad cars, and continued 75 miles north to his home.
For the next three months, Jayme told investigators, she was regularly required to hide under Patterson’s bed, barricaded by storage bins containing barbell weights, whenever he had visitors over or needed to leave the residence.
She escaped when left alone Jan. 10, approaching retired child protection social worker Jeanne Nutter, who was walking her dog in the area. Nutter brought Jayme to a neighboring residence and summoned help.
Patterson was stopped and arrested nearby. He told investigators he was out searching for Jayme after returning home to find her missing.
Closing the case
The sentencing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. before Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler. Members of Jayme’s family are expected to deliver victim-impact statements, and Patterson himself may address the court.
The only real issue at stake, however, is whether Patterson will ever see an opportunity for parole. Wisconsin law mandates a life sentence for each of the homicide convictions, but the judge has discretion in determining whether the defendant will have any right to seek future release from prison.
At a minimum, Patterson would eligible for parole after serving 20 years in prison. On the maximum end, the judge may impose two consecutive life terms, followed by an additional 40 years in prison.
In a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed an additional count of armed burglary and said they would not bring charges related to any crimes that he may have committed in Douglas County.
Patterson did not cooperate with a presentence investigation report, which was submitted to the court last week by Wisconsin Department of Corrections probation and parole agent Jennifer Sem.
Still, it’s unusual for a case of its significance to be fully resolved in just over four months. In pleading guilty at the first available opportunity, Patterson declined to have a trial before a judge or jury, bring a motion to suppress his confession, seek a change of venue or exercise any other pretrial right.
"He has wanted to enter a plea from the day we met,” defense attorney Richard Jones said in March.