BARRON, Wis. — Jake Thomas Patterson entered his first plea without hesitation.
The second came a little slower, pausing long enough to leave spectators wondering if the defendant had a last-minute change of heart.
The third, though, seemed to take an eternity.
“Guilty,” the 21-year-old finally uttered, easing the suspense inside the Barron County courtroom.
Patterson, according to his attorneys, never wavered in his intention to plead guilty to the Oct. 15 shooting deaths of James and Denise Closs and the kidnapping of their daughter, 13-year-old Jayme Closs, from the family’s Barron home.
But when it came time to formally admit his crimes in Barron County Circuit Court, the Gordon man grew emotional, appearing to realize the gravity of his actions and the consequences he will soon face.
As he was being led out by deputies at the conclusion of the short hearing, Patterson turned toward the gallery and said, “Bye, Jayme.”
Patterson pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. Prosecutors dropped an additional count of armed burglary and agreed not to pursue charges against him for crimes committed in Douglas County, where he held Jayme captive for 88 days.
Patterson, as required by Wisconsin law, will be sentenced to a life term for each homicide charge. Whether he will ever have an opportunity for parole is a decision to be made by Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler.
Before accepting the plea, Babler informed Patterson that he will be required to serve, at a minimum, 20 years in prison. On the maximum end, he could be sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 40 years.
Babler ordered a presentence investigation ahead of a May 24 sentencing date.
Attorneys and family members on both sides declined to comment as they were escorted out of the courtroom by law enforcement officials amid a swarm of news cameras.
Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, Patterson smiled at his family when he was brought into the small courtroom just after 1 p.m. He answered a series of questions from the judge, affirming his decision to plead guilty and acknowledging the rights he was giving up.
Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright informed the judge that, under a plea agreement, he would dismiss the burglary charge — though it will be “read in” to the record, allowing that conduct to be considered as a factor at sentencing.
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf also acknowledged that he had agreed not to pursue any charges against Patterson for crimes committed in Gordon. Authorities have released few details surrounding the nearly three months Jayme was held captive inside his residence.
For the severity of the charges, Patterson’s plea came exceptionally quick — just 76 days after Jayme escaped and ran to a neighboring cabin owner, leading to his arrest.
Wednesday’s hearing was an arraignment, at which the defendant is required to formally enter a plea for the first time. But defendants in serious felony cases typically plead not guilty, even if they later admit guilt, 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.
Public defender Richard Jones told the court that he continues to receive and review the voluminous evidence collected by law enforcement over more than five months of investigation.
Jones said the legal team has advised Patterson on an array of legal options and potential motions — including a bench or jury trial, a change of venue, suppression of his confession and a judicial substitution — but the defendant hasn’t been interested.
“We are satisfied that the plea is free, knowing and voluntary,” Jones said. “He has wanted to enter a plea from the day we met.”
Crimes detailed in confession
Patterson was not asked to provide testimony on his crimes. Jones acknowledged that a 12-page criminal complaint filed in January provided sufficient factual basis for the plea.
Patterson provided a detailed confession after his arrest, according to that complaint. He allegedly told investigators he decided to abduct Jayme after seeing her get on a school bus as he drove to work at a job he held for two days.
Patterson told police he "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.
The complaint states 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. He admitted to shooting James Closs, 56, in the head as he forced his way into the residence.
Meanwhile, Jamye and Denise Closs attempted to hide in a bathroom. Patterson approached them, taping Jayme’s mouth, wrists and ankles before shooting Denise, 46, in her presence, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that Patterson took Jayme in the trunk of his car to his home, 14166 S. Eau Claire Acres Circle, 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, the complaint said.
Patterson remains in the Polk County Jail pending sentencing. Babler on Wednesday revoked his $5 million bond.