BARRON, Wis. – Jake Patterson pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and murdering her parents, a move that spares the teenager and her family from enduring a trial.
Patterson, 21, appeared in Barron County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon to be arraigned on first-degree intentional homicide, kidnapping and armed burglary charges. He is being held in the Polk County Jail on a $5 million cash bond.
In court, Patterson repeatedly answered “yes” to a range of questions from Judge James Babler about whether he understood the charges, and whether he was certain he wanted to plead guilty. He hung his head at times as he spoke.
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Patterson entered his three pleas one at a time, growing more emotional with each utterance of the word “guilty.” He hesitated for several seconds, sniffled and his voice broke, as he admitted to kidnapping Jayme.
Jayme’s family filled four rows in the courtroom and could be seen comforting one another at times. Two of Patterson’s relatives also attended, one of whom cried throughout the hearing.
Babler set sentencing for the afternoon of May 24, and revoked Patterson’s bond.
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The hearing adjourned after about 18 minutes. As Patterson left the courtroom, he said, “Bye, Jayme,” although she did not appear to be in the courthouse Wednesday.
Patterson faces up to life in prison for each of the homicide charges and up to 40 years in prison for the kidnapping charge.
Under a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop the armed burglary charge, and to not charge Patterson with any crimes related to the time he kept Jayme in captivity at a home in Douglas County.
Patterson, who had no known connection to the Closs family, gunned down James and Denise Closs on Oct. 15 and abducted Jayme, then held the teenager in the Douglas County town of Gordon for 88 days. During her captivity, Patterson and Jayme told police, he forced her to hide under a twin bed when he had company or left the house. He also threatened also and yelled at her.
Patterson began planning Jayme’s abduction after he saw her board a school bus, according to his statement to police. He visited the Closs home twice before the kidnapping and murders, and shaved his head and face to avoid leaving DNA behind. He also made modifications to his car, including replacing his plates with a stolen one.
Jayme escaped on Jan. 10 and was rescued by Patterson’s neighbors. Patterson was apprehended by police a short time later.
The decision not to charge Patterson in Douglas County means details of Jayme’s captivity will likely remain unknown.
Officials declined to comment following the hearing. Jayme’s family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom, and Patterson’s family left the building without speaking to reporters.
In a letter to a reporter from Minneapolis-based KARE-TV, which the NBC affiliate published this month, Patterson said he would plead guilty to spare Jayme and her family from a trial. He expressed regret, saying he “can’t believe I did this.”
“No one will believe or can even imagine how sorry I am for hurting Jayme this much,” he wrote.
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Follow Haley BeMiller and Dough Schenider on Twitter: @haleybemiller and @PGDougSchneider