BARRON, Delete. – A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnap 13-year-old Jayme Closs and kill his parents in a move that saves the girl held captive in a remote cabin for three months from the possible trauma of having to testify during his trial.
Jake Patterson, 21, sniffled and his voice was captured when he alleged two guilty of intentional murder and a number of kidnappings. As part of a complaint agreement, the prosecutors dropped a number of armed burglaries. Patterson turns to life in jail when he is sentenced May 24; Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Patterson had said he would be guilty of a letter sent to a Minneapolis television station this month and said he did not want the Closs family to worry about a lawsuit.
Patterson admitted the kidnapping Jayme after killing his parents, James and Denise Closs, on October 15 in the family home near Barron, about 90 kilometers north of Minneapolis. Jayme fled in January after 88 days in Patterson's cabin near the small, isolated town of Gordon, about 60 miles from her home.
Patterson stoic answered yes and yes to repeated questions from Barron County Judge James Gabler about whether he understood what he was doing. Later, when he replied "guilty" to each count, he could be heard sniffing. He paused for several seconds after the judge had asked him for the kidnapping charge before stuttering, "guilty".
Defense lawyer Richard Jones told Gabler that Patterson "would file a prosecution from the day we met him" and mitigate strategies presented to him, including trying to suppress his statements to investigators.
"He rejected everything and has decided that this is what he wants to do," Jones said.
Members of Closs's family and Patterson's father and sister all left the court without commenting.
According to a criminal complaint, Patterson told the authorities that he decided Jayme "was the girl he was going to take" after he saw her coming to a school bus near her home. He told investigators that he carefully plotted, including wearing all black clothes, put the chair driver's license on his car and took care not to let any fingerprints come on his shotgun.
Jayme told the police that the evening's settlement, the family dog barked her up, and she went to wake the parents when a car came up the driveway. While the father went to the front door, Jayme and her mother hid in the bathroom and clung to each other in the bathtub, with the shower closed.
Patterson shot Jayme's father as he entered the house and found Jayme and her mother. He told the detective, he wrapped bands around Jayme's mouth and head, tied his hands behind his back and taped her ankles together and shot her mother in the head. He told police he dragged Jayme outside, 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 over and tipped her in with tote boxes and weights and warning that if she moved, "bad things could happen." He also raised the radio so that visitors could not hear her according to the complaint.
The charges in Douglas County, where Jayme was held, shortly after Patterson's arrest announced that they had no plans to bring taxes into this county – a move seen as potentially scarce from having details about, that her treatment becomes public. Patterson's plea on Wednesday increases the chances that this information will remain private.
Authorities searched for Jayme for several months and collected more than 3,500 tips. On January 10, Jayme fled the cabin while Patterson was gone. She then flagged a woman who was out walking a dog and asked for help. Patterson was arrested minutes later.
Patterson grew up in the cabin where he held Jayme. He wrote in his high school yearbook about plans to join the marines after graduation, but he was kicked out just under a month after enrollment. He struggled to hold a job afterwards and worked just one day at a turkey factory in Barron in 2016 before stopping.
Jayme's parents were working at the same turkey factory, but there is nothing to indicate that they knew Patterson. In the criminal complaint, Patterson told the investigators that he saw Jayme as he went to work at a cheese factory where he interrupted after two days.
On the day when Jayme escaped, Patterson had applied online for a job at a wine store with a resume erroneously his experience.
Laura Tancre, from nearby Star Prairie, said she was relieved by Patterson's plea and "fond of the little girl." Tancre, 57, worked on turkey plantation with Jayme's parents and called them "very nice people."
"I think he should have life to kill both parents," she said. "I would hate for him to come out and do it again."
Associated Press author Amy Forliti contributed from Minneapolis.
Check out AP's complete coverage of Jayme Closs's abduction and her parents' death.