Man set to enter plea Wednesday in Jayme Closs case

Jake Patterson
Jake Patterson

BARRON, Wis. — The Douglas County man accused of holding 13-year-old Jayme Closs captive for nearly three months after killing her parents will return to court Wednesday, March 27.

Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, of Gordon, is scheduled to appear for arraignment in Barron County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. Under Wisconsin criminal procedure, a defendant is formally advised of the charges and asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest at the time of arraignment.

Patterson is facing two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, kidnapping and armed burglary in the Oct. 15 killings of James and Denise Closs and the abduction of Jayme from their Barron home.

Patterson last month waived his right to a preliminary examination and Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler found probable cause for him to stand trial.

Defendants in serious felony cases commonly plead not guilty at arraignment, even if they later change the plea, in order to allow time to receive additional evidence that could affect the case, file various pretrial motions or negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Patterson, however, has indicated he intends to plead guilty to the charges. In a letter from the Polk County Jail, he told KARE-TV that he wants to spare Jayme and her family the need for a trial.

“I can’t believe I did this,” he wrote in the letter, postmarked Feb. 28. “It was really stupid though looking back.”

If Patterson does plead guilty, he likely would be asked to confirm some details of the crimes to establish a factual basis before the judge accepts the plea. A presentence investigation is typically ordered, and a sentencing date is scheduled.

Patterson can still change his mind and plead not guilty. In that case, a trial date may be scheduled.

Patterson allegedly told investigators that he decided to kidnap Jayme after seeing her getting on a school bus while driving to a job that he held for two days. He did not know her or her family.

The defendant allegedly confessed to investigators that he immediately "knew that was the girl he was going to take" and spent several weeks planning every detail of a crime that would leave no evidence behind.

A criminal complaint alleges that Patterson shaved his head, purchased a mask and made modifications to his car before taking Jayme from her Barron home in the dark of night on Oct. 15. He allegedly shot each parent in the head after forcibly entering their home, having vowed to leave behind no witnesses.

The complaint states Patterson took Jayme in the trunk of his car to his home and regularly required her to hide under his bed, barricaded by storage bins containing barbell weights, whenever he had visitors over or needed to leave the residence.

Jayme escaped Jan. 10, approaching a neighboring cabin owner for help. According to court documents, she told investigators she was left alone and was able to push the tote bins away, putting on a pair of Patterson's shoes and running for help.

Patterson was stopped and arrested nearby. He told investigators he had returned after a few hours away and, upon finding Jayme missing, went out in search of her, according to the complaint.

Patterson faces mandatory life sentences on each of the homicide charges, up to 40 years for kidnapping and 15 years for burglary. If convicted of homicide, it would be up to the judge to determine whether he would have a future opportunity for parole.