Episode 033: Jayme Closs

March 28, 2022

When thirteen-year-old Jayme Closs is kidnapped from her home, her abductor thinks he will never be caught. But Jayme is smarter than he expected…

Episode Media
Jayme Lynn Closs (Barron County Sheriff’s Office)
James and Denise Closs (Facebook)
Jake Thomas Patterson (Barron County Sheriff’s Office)
Cabin where Jayme was held captive (NY Post)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a terrifying story of murder and abduction, a story that is as tragic as it is inspiring. This episode discusses sensitive topics and includes graphic descriptions, so listener discretion is advised.

Thirteen-year-old Jayme Lynn Closs grew up in the small town of Barron, Wisconsin with her parents, James and Denise Closs. Jayme was a sweet, shy girl who loved to dance. She was on the cross country team at Riverview Middle School and was well liked by her teachers and peers.

Neighbors described the Closs family as quiet – they were friendly, but mostly kept to themselves. James and Denise worked at the Jennie-O Turkey Store, one of Barron’s biggest employers. The tiny town of just over 3,000 people was generally considered a safe place with very little violent crime.

But someone was watching the Closs family, Jayme in particular.

One morning in September of 2018, twenty-one-year-old Jake Patterson was driving home from work when he stopped behind a school bus. There, he saw Jayme Closs leaving her house and boarding the bus for school.

Patterson was a loner, a quiet guy who, according to his family, was more interested in computer games than social interactions. After graduating from Northwood High School in 2015, Patterson enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, but was discharged after a month. When he moved back to Wisconsin, things really started to take a turn. He began fantasizing about kidnapping a young girl, just to see if he could. At first it was just a general wondering, but then his plans began to get more specific. When he saw Jayme getting on the school bus, he knew that she was the girl he wanted to take.

Over the next few weeks, Patterson prepared, making meticulous plans for how he would kidnap Jayme. He bought a black ski mask at Walmart and shaved his head and facial hair so he wouldn’t leave any DNA evidence behind. He put a stolen license plate on his red Ford Taurus and disabled the car’s inside light so it wouldn’t turn on when he opened the door. He also grabbed his father’s shotgun, a common Mossberg model that would be hard to trace.

On October 5, 2018, Patterson drove to the Closs home, ready to strike. But there were multiple cars in front of the house, more than he was expecting. He decided to come back another day. Two days later, he ran into the same problem. Afraid he would leave witnesses, Patterson decided to wait until the time was right.

On October 15, he was ready. Shortly before 1am, he pulled up to the Closs home, turning off his headlights as he parked at the end of the driveway. Dressed all in black and wearing the ski mask he had purchased, Patterson approached the front door. He saw James Closs on the other side, shining a flashlight through the glass portion of the door. James called out, asking the intruder to show him his badge. He must have assumed that law enforcement was at his door – who else would show up in the middle of the night with a shotgun?

Patterson shouted at James to open the door, then fired a shot through the glass, striking James in the head. He then fired another shot through the doorknob and forced the door open.

He stepped over James’s bleeding body and made his way through the house, checking every room to make sure there were no other witnesses.

In the back of the house, Jayme and Denise were huddled in a bathtub, clinging to each other in fear. Denise had the presence of mind to dial 911 from her cell phone, but she was afraid to speak. The dispatcher on the other end heard noise they later described as a disturbance, then yelling, before the call disconnected.

Jake Patterson had forced his way through the bathroom door, ripping down the shower curtain to reveal Denise and Jayme. Patterson grabbed Jayme, binding her wrists and ankles with duct tape before pulling her out of the tub. He then shot Denise while Jayme watched.

When the 911 dispatcher called back, all they heard was the sound of Denise’s voicemail. Tracing the call, the dispatcher immediately put out an alert, and officers were at the Closs home within four minutes.

But in those four minutes, Jake Patterson had dragged Jayme out of the house and locked her in the trunk of his car. Just seconds after he pulled out of the driveway, he saw police cars speeding by with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Dashcam footage would later show Patterson’s car on the side of the road as officers flew by.

But at the time, the Barron County Sheriff’s Office didn’t know they were about to stumble upon a double murder, much less a kidnapping.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found the front door to the home kicked in and the body of James Closs just inside the threshold. Denise’s body was found in the bathroom.

While speaking with neighbors, officers realized that James and Denise weren’t the only ones who lived in the house. Their daughter Jayme was nowhere to be found.

The sheriff’s office put out a press release, asking for the public’s help in finding Jayme. Because there was very little information to go on, they weren’t able to issue an Amber Alert until 3:30 that afternoon, over 12 hours since Denise and James had been killed.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters that although they didn’t have any suspects, they believed that Jayme was in danger. They called in reinforcements from the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the FBI.

Investigators searched the Closs home and the surrounding areas, using drones and infrared equipment to explore the rural terrain. Hundreds of volunteers from the community came out to help with the search, but it was as if Jayme had just vanished into thin air.

In reality, Jayme was only a few towns away, hidden in a cabin in the woods.

After locking Jayme in his trunk, Jake Patterson had driven north towards Gordon, Wisconsin, about 80 miles away from Barron. When he reached his cabin, Patterson forced Jayme inside, making her change into a different pair of clothes, presumably so he wouldn’t have to see the bloodstains on her pajamas. He then made her crawl under his bed before locking the doors of the cabin and going to sleep.

From then on, Jayme lived as a captive. When Patterson was home, he threatened her with violence if she tried to run. When he left the house, he would force her to hide under the bed, stacking laundry baskets and hand weights around her so that he would know if she moved. Sometimes Jayme lay under the bed for hours at a time, with no food or water and nowhere to use the bathroom.

Patterson was especially adamant that no one ever saw Jayme. When guests came over to the cabin, Jayme had to remain still and silent until they left – if she didn’t, Patterson made it clear that bad things would happen.

As the weeks and months passed, Patterson began to loosen up. He would occasionally take Jayme outside for short walks in the yard, but only after checking that no one was around. One night, Patterson got drunk and let Jayme write a letter to her aunt, but he never sent it.

Patterson also kept an eye on the news, looking for coverage of Jayme’s disappearance. He started to think that he had gotten away with it. No one knew where Jayme was, and there was nothing to connect him to the crime. Jayme was his, and he controlled her through power and fear.

But Jayme was smart and observant. She made mental notes of Patterson’s routine, and learned the layout of the house and yard. She knew that he hadn’t put any special locks on the doors or windows, and she also knew that the cabin wasn’t far from the road. She just needed a chance.

On the afternoon of January 10, 2019, Patterson told Jayme that he was leaving the house for a few hours. Like usual, he forced Jayme to crawl under the bed and then barricaded her in. Jayme listened as his car pulled out of the driveway. When she was sure he was gone, she made her move.

Pushing her way out from under the bed, Jayme put on a pair of Patterson’s sneakers and ran from the house. When she reached the snow-covered road, she found a woman walking her dog. She approached the woman and said, “I’m Jayme.” The woman said, “I know.”

Jeanne Nutter immediately recognized Jayme from the news and knew she had to get her to safety. She led the girl to a neighbor’s house and banged on the door. When Kristin Kasinskas opened it, Jeanne said, “Call 911 – this is Jayme Closs!”

As they waited for the police to arrive, the women took in Jayme’s appearance. She was thinner than the pictures they’d seen on the news, but she didn’t seem to be injured, just dazed and disheveled. Jayme seemed surprised that they recognized her, and admitted that she didn’t know where she was. All she could tell them was that Jake Patterson had killed her parents, and she wanted to go home.

When officers arrived a while later, Jayme was able to give them a description of Patterson and his car. They immediately put out a bulletin, and deputies pulled his car over just minutes later. When he got out of the vehicle, he just said, “I did it.”

Jayme was taken to the hospital and examined before being released into the custody of her Aunt Jennifer. The reunion was bittersweet. James and Denise were gone, but Jayme was home, finally safe. She had been missing for 88 days.

Jake Patterson was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of kidnapping, and one count of armed burglary. His bail was set at $5 million. He was arraigned on March 27, 2019, where he pleaded guilty. Two months later, a judge sentenced him to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders of Denise and James Closs, plus an additional 40 years for the kidnapping of Jayme Closs.

Patterson never denied his crimes. He told detectives that he had wanted to kidnap someone for quite a while. “If it wasn’t Jayme, it would probably be someone else.”

But even though he confessed, he still wanted to control the narrative. While in jail, Patterson wrote a letter to a reporter in Minneapolis, apologizing for his crimes and claiming that they were mostly carried out on impulse. He tried to paint himself in a compassionate light, saying that he pleaded guilty to spare Jayme and her family the trauma of a trial. He also claimed that he and Jayme had just watched TV and played games during her captivity, that they were just hanging out. But the evidence paints a very different picture.

Jake Patterson planned his crimes and carried them out with precision. He murdered James and Denise Closs in cold blood, all to get what he really wanted: Jayme as his prisoner. He held her against her will for nearly three months, never intending to let her go.

But Jayme was stronger than he anticipated. In the words of Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright, “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.”

Today, Jayme Closs is 16 years old and living with her aunt and uncle in Wisconsin. She has worked hard to reclaim her life after the trauma of losing her parents and surviving her abduction. Her family has supported her throughout the ordeal, helping her move forward.

Although Jayme has largely stayed out of the public eye since her escape, she continues to be an inspiration for many. In a statement read at Patterson’s sentencing hearing, Jayme said, “I will always have my freedom and he will not. He can never take my courage. He thought he could control me, but he couldn’t.”