2019-01-15 by W.M.
What We Know About Jake Thomas Patterson, the Man Accused of Kidnapping Jayme Closs
Jake Thomas Patterson. (Barron County Sheriff’s Department via AP)
His teachers barely remember him, his neighbors didn’t know he was there, and he appears to have had little to no online presence. By virtually all accounts, Jake Thomas Patterson—the 21-year-old police say killed 13-year-old Jayme Closs’s parents in rural Wisconsin, kidnapped her, and held her in a cabin for almost 90 days—was a living ghost. Now authorities are scrambling to put together a profile of a man who managed to elude attention for years in a tiny township, as the Associated Press reported.
Deputies in Barron, Wisconsin, found James and Denise Closs shot dead in their home back in October, kicking off a nationwide search for the deceased’s missing daughter, whom they believed had been home at the time of the killings. Last Thursday, a social worker was walking her dog when, as the Daily Beast reported, a young woman “just came out of the woods” without gloves or a coat and began to describe her ordeal. Police said they captured Patterson roughly 11 minutes later, and that he soon confessed under questioning.
More than 72 hours after that, we know more about Patterson, but details about his background and motive remain frustratingly scant.
According to the AP, Patterson grew up about an hour away from the Closs’s home in Gordon, a quiet, woodsy place where ATVs share the streets with cars. His parents divorced in 2008 and moved away, leaving him and a brother behind. One former high school classmate told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Patterson “stuck to himself, at home and at school. … He was nice. And not dumb either. He just was quiet, too quiet, which explains why he didn’t have friends.” Others told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he didn’t go to prom or participate in any graduation-related activities, didn’t join his class on a trip to Florida, and generally just kind of “disappeared” after high school.
Neighbors variously reported to local papers that the brothers lived alone in a cabin without supervision and spent time in foster care. Although one woman who lived nearby told the Journal-Sentinel she and her husband once caught the boys stealing gas, it was only the older sibling, Erik, who racked up a criminal record: He was convicted of possession of weed and kipping out on bail, and pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl when he was 18.
Meanwhile, former teachers and school officials said they had no real memories of a young man they described as quiet and studious. The fact that Gordon has a population of only 645 made it all the stranger that no one seemed aware of the fact that Patterson continued to live there well after graduation.
Employment records also left mysterious gaps: Although he had written in his high school yearbook that he intended to join the Marine Corps, there was no evidence Patterson followed through with that. He was employed for one day in 2016 at a Jennie-O turkey plant that also employed Closs’s parents, but it was far from clear they properly knew each other. He wasn’t believed to have been known to the family and there did not appear to be any record of his having communicated with the victims online.
Patterson did apparently have a job at a cheese factory on the day he decided to kidnap Closs: According to a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, he told cops he was driving to that gig one day when he saw Closs board a school bus and settled on her as a target.
“When he saw [Jayme], he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” it read, also noting that he had apparently attempted the kidnapping twice before only to back off because too many people were around. When Patterson finally succeeded in his grisly scheme, police say, he shot Closs’s father and then broke down the bathroom door where she and her mother were hiding. After shooting the mother in the head with a shotgun, the complaint continues, he dragged Closs into the trunk of his vehicle and later forced her to remain under a bed in his remote cabin that he had surrounded with laundry bins and barbells. She would stay there for up to 12 hours at a time without access to the toilet, food, or water.
There are still more questions than answers in the case—one in which Patterson was set to make his first court appearance Monday afternoon. He’s been formally charged with two counts of intentional first-degree homicide, as well as kidnapping and burglary.
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