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He spotted Jayme Closs at a bus stop, then launched a deadly plan to kidnap her, police say

A months-long manhunt ended Jan. 10 after 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who went missing for three months after her parents were murdered, fled her captor. (Video: Allie Caren, Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

BARRON, Wis. — He shaved his head and his face, wiping down his father’s shotgun and six 12-gauge shells to avoid leaving a physical trace. He replaced his car’s license plates with a set he had stolen, removing a glow-in-the-dark cord from the trunk that allowed people to open it from inside.

And he showed up at a home in rural Wisconsin in a black coat and a balaclava with one purpose: to kidnap a 13-year-old girl whose name he didn’t even know.

Prosecutors laid out in detail these steps they say Jake Patterson took as he planned the kidnapping of Jayme Closs last year — an act planned after Patterson saw the girl at a bus stop — in a criminal complaint released Monday.

The release was coupled with Patterson’s first court hearing, in which he appeared by video in an orange jumpsuit from the county jail, shaking his head affirmatively and saying “Yes, sir,” to the judge’s questions. He was visibly unmoved as charges against him were read. Judge James C. Babler set Patterson’s bail at $5 million.

Jayme’s relatives sat in silence throughout, and only quietly whispered to one another before and after the hearing. They left the courtroom swiftly at the end of the hearing. Patterson’s brother and father walked out of the courtroom with their heads bowed. His father’s hands were wrapped together, and he was dressed in a gray suit. He appeared tired. When one reporter asked Patterson’s father simply, “Did you know?” he kept his head bowed and shook his head slowly from side to side to signal “no.”

The case, which has chilled this small corner of Wisconsin for months, unraveled with breathtaking speed last week after Jayme escaped from Patterson’s home. It had been nearly three months since the 21-year-old had stalked her, ambushed her family at their house and hauled her away in duct-tape bindings after fatally shooting her parents, officials said. Residents had joined law enforcement officials in a months-long search for the girl.

But prosecutors have declined to answer some key questions about the case, both in the complaint and in a news conference after the court appearance on Monday afternoon. They have not spelled out Patterson’s motivation for kidnapping Jayme, saying only that “he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” after seeing her at the bus stop.

Patterson is charged in Barron County, where the Closs family house is located. Jayme was held in Gordon, about 65 miles to the north, where prosecutors said that more charges may be forthcoming, though they declined to answer questions about whether she had been sexually assaulted or give any other details.

They did outline Patterson’s meticulous preparation and ruthless execution of the crimes, which spun out of two days of work he did at the Saputo Cheese Factory last year, prosecutors said.

On one of the two mornings he worked at the factory, he had stopped behind a school bus and saw Jayme board, the complaint said. “The defendant stated when he saw J.L.C., he knew that was the girl he was going to take.”

Either that day or the next, he bought the black mask at Walmart, the complaint said. He drove by the Closs home twice, but the number of cars in the driveway had scared him off.

On one of these trips, he pilfered a license plate off another car to install on his red Ford Taurus. He took out the car’s dome light so that it would not turn on when he entered or exited the car. And he came toting his father’s Mossberg pump shotgun, a model chosen for both its lethality and commonality: That way, the gun would be harder to trace, prosecutors said.

He shut off his headlights as he approached the Closs home, parking near the end of its driveway. He told police that he believed that James Closs, Jayme’s 56-year-old father, was shining a light outside. He approached the front door, opening the storm door. Closs looked through a glass portion of the front door, asking Patterson to show him his badge, apparently wondering whether the man at his front door with a shotgun was law enforcement.

Patterson aimed the gun at Closs’s head and pulled the trigger, he told police. He fired a round into the doorknob and broke into the house, stepping across Closs’s body, police said.

Inside the house, he went for a locked door, shouldering it a dozen or so times until it opened, the complaint said. The bathroom curtain was shut; he ripped it down and threw it to the floor, finding Jayme and her mother, Denise, 46, in the tub. Denise had her arms wrapped around Jayme.

He bound Jayme with duct tape around her wrists and ankles and pulled her from the tub, shooting Denise as he started turning away, according to the complaint. He dragged Jayme to the car and put her in the trunk, locked it and drove away. He told deputies that he was no more than 20 seconds from the house when squad cars passed him with their emergency lights and sirens on, having been alerted by a 911 call made by Denise.

The deputies arrived to find James and Denise both dead from gunshot wounds to their heads.

Little is known about Jayme’s time as a captive.

The girl told police that Patterson would have her hide under his twin bed, stacking the area around it with tote bags, laundry bins and weights so that he would be able to hear or see if she moved. Police said she told them that “Patterson made it clear that nobody was to know she was there or bad things would happen to her.” Guests had apparently come and gone to his house while she was under the bed, the complaint said.

And he made her stay under the bed when he left the house, sometimes as long as 12 hours with no food, water or bathroom break, the complaint said. He struck her with a hard household object one time when she upset him, threatening that the punishment would be worse if it happened again.

On Jan. 10, Patterson told her he was going to leave the house for five or six hours, the complaint said, making her crawl under the bed beforehand. But after he left, Jayme moved the bins and weights away, put on a pair of his shoes, and walked out toward the road until she found a woman walking her dog. Jeanne Nutter told police that Jayme told her her name during the encounter. “I don’t know where I am,” the disheveled girl told her. “He killed my parents.” And, “Please help — I want to go home.”

The woman took her to the closest home nearby, where they called 911; Jayme told responding officers that Patterson had killed her parents. Officers saw a red vehicle in the area that was driven by a lone man. They pulled the car over near Patterson’s home, asking the man to step out of the vehicle with his hands up.

Some of the first words out of Patterson’s mouth were, “I did it,” the complaint said.

Officials spoke glowingly of Jayme, who is recovering with family members.

“Unbelievable,” said Barron County District Attorney Brian H. Wright. “She’s a 13-year-old, and if you read the criminal complaint, you can see the amount of control he was exerting over her. And at some point, she found it within herself, at 13 years old, to say, ‘I’m going to get myself out of this situation.’ It’s incredible.”

Read more:

Search intensifies for missing teen, days after parents found shot to death in Wisconsin home

A timeline of events in the Jayme Closs disappearance case

Ex-kidnapping victims: Jayme Closs needs space, time to heal