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Missing Wisconsin teen Closs found alive

This article was originally published in the Feb. 4, 2019 issue of the Round Table. 

Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old Wisconsin girl who was missing for nearly three months after her parents were killed, was found alive on Thursday, Jan. 10. A woman walking her dog found Closs emerging from the woods in a rural community about 70 miles from Closs’ home. A suspect, Jake Thomas Patterson, was taken into custody and admitted to taking Closs and murdering her parents. He is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.

The kidnapping occurred during the early hours of Oct. 15, 2018. At 12:53 a.m., a 911 call was made from the Closs family home in Barron, a town in northwestern Wisconsin. The caller did not speak with the operator, although a disturbance and screaming were heard before the call disconnected. The dispatcher called the number back and reached the voicemail of Denise Closs, Jayme’s mother. Police arrived four minutes after the call was made and found Denise, 46, and James Closs, 56, dead from gunshot wounds. Jayme was missing, though police believed she had been home at the time of the incident.

An AMBER Alert was issued to the state of Wisconsin for several days following the kidnapping, and investigators received north of 2,000 tips regarding the case. A $25,000 reward was issued on Oct. 24 for Closs’s retrieval and then increased to $50,000 on Oct. 26.

After months of silence on the case, Closs was found in Gordon, Wis.– roughly 70 miles north of her home in Barron– where she had been held captive in a cabin for 88 days. She immediately identified her kidnapper as Patterson, who was subsequently found and detained by police as they made their way to the cabin.

Patterson told police that, on the night of the abduction, he placed Closs in the trunk of his car and pulled over when vehicles with emergency lights and sirens on sped by. Patterson said he had seen Closs getting off a school bus outside of the Closs residence one day while he was driving home from work one day in September, and at the moment “knew that she was the girl I wanted to take.” Police do not believe Patterson had any previous contact with Closs or her family, and Closs’s relatives did not recognize Patterson’s name.

The cabin where Patterson held Closs captive was owned by Patterson’s father at the time of the kidnapping, but was turned over to a credit union about a week later. Closs, who was described as “unkempt” at the time she was found, escaped the cabin wearing a pair of Patterson’s shoes after he had left for the day. While held in the cabin, Closs was forced to stay under Patterson’s twin-size bed surrounded by bags, laundry bins and barbells. Closs was sometimes kept under the bed for as long as 12 hours without access to food, water or the bathroom.

Patterson attempted to destroy all evidence by burning Closs’s clothes in the basement fireplace in the cabin, as well as the duct tape and gloves he had used during the kidnapping. He then had Closs change into his sister’s pajamas. Whenever people visited Patterson’s cabin– such as his father’s weekly visits– he turned up the bedroom radio to drown out Closs’s movements.

Patterson kept Closs “in line” by yelling and hitting the walls, especially on two occasions when he noticed her trying to get out from under the bed. He warned her repeatedly that “bad things would happen to her” if she tried to escape. During one outburst, according to Closs, Patterson struck her “really hard” on her back.

Two weeks after the kidnapping, Patterson was confident “he had gotten away” with his crimes. He eventually applied for a nighttime warehouse job at a liquor distributor on the morning of Jan. 10, 87 days after the abduction of Closs.

“I’m an honest and hardworking guy,” Patterson wrote in his job application. “Not much work experience but I show up to work and am a quick learner.”

That morning, Patterson told Closs he was going out for a few hours. Closs used this opportunity to escape.

Patterson appeared in court via video conferencing on Jan. 14. He was charged with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of kidnapping. Bail was set at $5 million cash.

Sources: CNN, Green Bay Press-Gazette, NBC

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