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'Embodiment of evil:' Jake Patterson will spend life in prison for kidnapping Jayme Closs, killing her parents

From the Read full coverage of the Jayme Closs abduction case from the beginning series
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BARRON — Jayme Closs on Friday urged a judge to deliver a life sentence to Jake Patterson, the young man who killed her parents in their northwestern Wisconsin home before abducting the 13-year-old and holding her captive for nearly three months until her daring escape.

Barron County District Judge James Babler heard the pleadings of the teen and members of her family, and sentenced the 21-year-old Patterson to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of release for killing James and Denise Closs. He also ordered Patterson to serve 25 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision on the kidnapping charge.

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

Judge James Babler

“I was shocked by the brutalness,” Babler said, pointing out that he has never seen a more horrifying crime in his decades as an attorney and judge. “There is no doubt in my mind that you are one of the most dangerous men to walk on this planet. … You are the embodiment of evil, and the public can only be safe if you are incarcerated until you die.”

Jayme Closs made her feelings known in a statement read by a court representative, which said in part for Patterson to hear, “I felt like what he did was what a coward would do. I was brave, and he was not.”

‘He can’t own me’

Patterson pleaded guilty in March to the violence that unfolded in the middle of an October night on the outskirts of Barron and gripped a nation during the time Jayme was missing and for weeks after her January escape from the Patterson family cabin near Gordon about an hour north of Barron.

“Last October, Jake Patterson took a lot of things that I love away from me,” were Jayme’s words, read by attorney Chris Gramstrup. “It makes me the most sad that he took away my mom and my dad. I loved my mom and dad very much and they loved me very much.

“They did all they could to make me happy and protect me. He took them away from me forever. I felt safe in my home, and I loved my room and all of my belongings. He took all of that too. I don’t want to even see my home or my stuff because of the memory of that night.”

Jayme added that to this day, going out in public makes her afraid and anxious.

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

Jake Patterson walks into court Friday for his sentencing at the Barron County Justice Center.

“But there are some things that Jake Patterson can’t take away,” her statement declared. “He can’t own me.”

Speaking to how she fled her captor when the opportunity came, Jayme explained to the court, “I was smarter. I watched his routine, and I took back my freedom.

“I will always have my freedom, and he will not.

Jake Patterson could not take away my courage. He will never own me.”

He ‘will stop at nothing’

When his turn came to speak to the court more than 90 minutes into the proceeding, Patterson said, while choking back his emotions: “I’ll just say that I would do, like, absolutely anything to take back what I did. I would die. I would do absolutely anything to bring them back. I don’t care about me. I’m just so sorry. That’s all.”

The prosecution’s case for a life sentence followed with District Attorney Brian Wright’s detailed account of the killings and how Patterson pulled Jayme out of the bathroom where her mother was fatally shot before her eyes, at one point dragging the girl through her father’s blood near the front door.

Among a few new details disclosed about Jayme’s captivity, Wright revealed that Patterson yelled and threatened the teen if she failed to follow his rules and at times hit her with a curtain rod.

“With each step she took to escape,” Wright said, “the terror of not knowing where he was got more and more intense. Was he in the house just standing outside the door? Would he find her as she was walking down the driveway? Would he find her as she was walking down the road?”

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping
Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping
Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping
Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping
Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

In pressing his case for locking up Patterson forever, Wright said, “The defendant will stop at nothing to get what he wants if he is ever released from prison. The need to protect the public starts with Jayme. If he ever is released from prison, he will find Jayme and stop at nothing. … If Mr. Patterson is ever released from prison, anyone standing between himself and Jayme would be in peril.”

Patterson sat in his orange jail jumpsuit listening to each statement and the specifics of the killings, kidnapping and the months he kept Jayme captive.

His shoulders were slouched and his head bowed much of the time. Before he spoke, Patterson showed little reaction during the proceedings, other than to shake his head “no” when the prosecution spelled out in court that he had no remorse and would go after Jayme should he ever be free.

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Defense makes plea

Speaking for the defense, attorney Charles Glynn said he understood his client would receive a life sentence, but he also described Patterson as someone who was acting on his loneliness and not showing a pattern of behavior that would escalate in severity.

Glynn urged the court to give Patterson credit for quickly admitting to the killings and abduction, and provide his client with therapy and other opportunities while in prison that inmates sentenced to life are not typically afforded.

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

Jake Patterson speaks with his lawyer Richard Jones at the sentencing hearing.

“He has taken responsibility for what he has done,” Glynn said, adding that Patterson refused any plea with insanity as a defense. “He has accepted … that he is going to die in prison.”

Even so, Glynn asked the judge to at least consider some far-off chance for parole.

Co-defense attorney Richard Jones also made the case against the certainty of Patterson dying in prison, saying his client had never before been in trouble with the law beyond a parking ticket and lashed out after “lifelong aimlessness (and) overreacted to his loneliness.”

Count by count, Jones asked for a sentence that would set Patterson free when he is 100 years old.

Closs family’s ‘nightmare’

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The hearing started with several brief victim impact statements from relatives of the Closses.

Sue Allard, Jayme’s aunt, began by recalling the “worst phone call” that she could receive when authorities told her that her sister, Denise Closs, was dead and niece Jayme abducted.

“I was hoping I was just waking up from a nightmare,” Allard said, wrapping up her statement by urging the judge to give Patterson the maximum sentence possible on each count.

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

Jayme Closs' cousin Lindsey Smith gets up after giving a victim impact statement at Jake Patterson's sentencing.

Another aunt, Jennifer Smith, addressed Patterson directly, saying: “It hurts so bad. We no longer get to make memories with them. Jayme no longer has a normal 13-year-old’s life.”

Smith also asked the judge to give Patterson a lifetime in prison to “pay for all the evil you have done.”

“I’m at ease that my brother did not suffer, but mad as hell that he didn’t have a chance,” Mike Closs said.

Jeff Closs added, “If he could have gotten his hands on him, it would have been different.”

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

Jayme Closs' aunt Kelly Engelhardt gets up after giving a victim impact statement at the sentencing of Jake Patterson.

Random target

Patterson told authorities in the hours after his arrest in January that he picked Jayme at random, snatching her on Oct. 15 after spotting her boarding a school bus weeks earlier and deciding to take her.

According to a criminal complaint charging him with the crimes, Patterson drove to the Closs home, shot James Closs at the front door, then shot Denise Closs in the bathroom, where she was barricaded with Jayme.

Patterson said he then stuffed Jayme into the trunk of his car and drove north to his family’s cabin near Gordon, where he kept the girl trapped under a bed when people visited.

Wisconsin Killings-Kidnapping

Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright addresses the media after Jake Patterson's sentencing hearing on Friday in Barron. Patterson was sentenced to life without parole for kidnapping Jayme Closs and murdering her parents.

Jayme escaped the afternoon of Jan. 10 after Patterson left the house for several hours. With the help of a woman walking a dog nearby, she got to the home of neighbors, who called police. Authorities had searched for Jayme for months and collected more than 3,500 tips.

Jayme had made no public statements since her escape in January, and she has made only a few public appearances, most recently during a recognition at the state Capitol in her honor.

Patterson was also ordered to register as a sex offender, which under Wisconsin law may be required both for an actual sex offense or an attempted sexual offense. Details of Jayme’s time in captivity have not been released, and no charges were brought by prosecutors in the county where she was held.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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