By Todd Melby
BARRON, Wis. (Reuters) – The Wisconsin man accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old girl after murdering her parents then holding her hostage for months, sometimes under his bed, told police he picked his victim after seeing her get on a school bus, prosecutors said on Monday.
Authorities said Jake Patterson, 21, had confessed to killing Jayme Closs’ father with a shotgun while the teen and her mother hid in a bathtub, then killing the mother after forcing her to help duct-tape her daughter’s mouth shut.
The October discovery of the parents’ bodies in the family home in rural Barron, Wisconsin, with the door blasted open and their daughter gone, sparked a search by hundreds of police officers and thousands of volunteers. That ended Thursday when Closs escaped after 88 days and sought help from a woman walking her dog.
At a brief hearing in Barron County Circuit Court on Monday, Patterson appeared via live video from jail, wearing an orange jumpsuit and glasses. He had a copy of the criminal complaint in front of him and calmly offered brief yes-or-no answers to questions from the judge.
Patterson will be held on $5 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 6. He faces first-degree murder charges for the killings of James and Denise Closs, as well as kidnapping and burglary counts.
Authorities have not yet explained why Patterson felt so drawn to Closs that he committed a double murder to capture her.
Asked whether Closs was the victim of sexual abuse, Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright declined to comment. Prosecutors said additional charges stemming from Douglas County, where Patterson’s house is located, remained possible.
“We’re so grateful for Jayme and her safe return, and now it’s time for us to obtain justice for her,” Wright said.
Defense lawyers did not address reporters after the hearing.
WEEKS OF PREPARATION
Patterson told police that he spotted the teen outside her home while he was driving to a short-lived job at a local cheese factory. She was getting on the school bus, and “he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” according to court documents.
He prepared for the abduction by buying a ski mask, shaving his head so as not to leave any hair evidence and replacing his license plates with stolen ones. Twice he drove to the house but was scared off after seeing lights on and people there, prosecutors said.
Jayme Closs told police she was awakened on Oct. 15 when the family dog began barking and got her parents up as a car entered their driveway.
Dressed in black, Patterson shot James Closs through the front door while Jayme and her mother, Denise Closs, barricaded themselves in a bathroom, authorities said.
After kicking down the door, Patterson ordered Denise Closs to tape up her daughter, then shot her dead and dragged Jayme into the trunk of his car, he told police.
On the way to his cabin in Gordon, Wisconsin, about 66 miles (106 km) north of Barron, Patterson drove past several police cars responding to reports of the shooting, according to the criminal complaint.
During her months in captivity, Patterson often trapped Closs under his bed for hours when he left the house or had visitors, using plastic boxes and barbells to make it harder for her to get out, he told police. He threatened violence if she tried to escape.
Closs managed to push her way out on Thursday after Patterson said he would be away for a few hours, she told police. She put on a pair of his shoes and walked outside, where she encountered the woman walking her dog.
The two then approached a neighbor’s house to call police. While they waited for officers to arrive, the neighbor, Peter Kasinskas, retrieved his gun and stood watch at the door in case her captor was searching for her, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Soon after, police stopped Patterson, who told investigators he had been driving around looking for Closs.
(Reporting by Todd Melby in Barron, Wisconsin, writing by Joseph Ax in New York; editing by Lisa Shumaker, James Dalgleish and Cynthia Osterman)