Welcome to Tell-Tale Crimes, the crime column of the QC. Tell-Tale Crimes will aim to provide a look at both local and national crimes and cases that are sometimes interesting, sometimes relevant, and sometimes both, from the perspective of a true crime enthusiast. So here I am writing scary stories, both local and national, and true ones at that. Be forewarned, the pieces published in this column will contain descriptions of violent crimes or crime scenes. Thank you for reading.
Jayme Closs is a typical 13-year-old girl. She goes to school and lives in Barron, Wis., where most of her loving family lives. She has a small, fluffy, white-and-brown dog named Molly. However, on Oct. 15, 2018, Jayme was kidnapped from her home, and her parents were murdered.
This story begins earlier than that October night. Though Jayme was not aware of it, she was first spotted by her kidnapper, Jake Patterson, as she was boarding the bus for school. Patterson was driving home from his briefly-held job at the local cheese factory when he passed Jayme’s school bus. He told investigators that he immediately “knew that was the girl he was going to take.”
According to the New York Times, Patterson began to map out his plan to kidnap Jayme almost immediately. He took a shotgun from his father — allegedly because he believed that it would inflict the most damage — then stole a license plate that he could attach to his car. He made some modifications to his vehicle next so that it would be less recognizable, and, finally, he shaved his head and bought a mask from Walmart. Twice, he drove out to the Closs’ home in an attempt to go through with his plans, but was scared off when he saw cars in the driveway or people awake inside the home.
Patterson’s plans finally came to fruition on Oct. 15 of last year. He pulled up to the Closs’ home and pounded on the door after spotting James Closs, Jayme’s father, in the front window. Closs asked Patterson to identify himself, and Patterson responded by shooting at Closs with the shotgun he was carrying. Closs died from the gunshot, and Patterson made his way into the home.
Patterson then forced his way into a bathroom where he found Jayme and her mother, Denise Closs, hiding in the bathtub behind the shower curtain. He gave duct tape to Denise Closs and told her to bind Jayme’s hands and cover her mouth. She struggled, and Patterson took the duct tape from her and finished the binding. He then picked up Jayme, shot her mother, and left the home. With Jayme now in the trunk of his car, Patterson drove away from the Closs home as patrol cars sped towards it. He yielded for them, then drove on. According to the complaint filed to the Barron County court, officers recalled seeing Patterson’s vehicle, as it was the only one on the road that night.
There are relatively few details about Jayme’s time as a captive. She was held at Patterson’s home in Gordon, Wis., and when visitors came she was forced to stay underneath his bed. The edges of the bed would be barricaded with storage bins weighted down with barbell weights. According to Jayme, Patterson could be gone for up to 12 hours at a time, and she was expected to stay under his bed without food, water, or a bathroom break. At one point during her time as a captive, Patterson got angry with her and hit her across the back with what Jayme described as the handle of something used to clean blinds. He made a threat against her as well, when he believed that she had attempted to escape, saying that something really bad would happen if she did it again. This is what Jayme endured for 88 days until Jan. 10 of this year.
On that day, Patterson told Jayme that he would be gone for several hours, and she should stay under the bed during that time. Once Patterson left, Jayme worked up the courage and strength to push one of the bins out of the way enough so that she could get out from underneath the bed. She ran to the front door, put on a pair of Patterson’s shoes, and escaped from the home.
Jayme ran up to the first person she saw — Jeanne Nutter, who was out walking her dog and was coincidentally a retired child protection social worker — and told her she was Jayme Closs, she had been kidnapped, and she wanted to go home. Nutter immediately took her to a nearby house where she and the homeowners called the police and alerted them that Jayme had been found. Once police arrived at the home, Jayme gave a description of Patterson and his vehicle, authorities were quick to apprehend him. Patterson had returned home to find Jayme not under his bed and drove off again to see if he could find her. Once police pulled him over, however, he realized that he had been caught and immediately confessed to the kidnapping.
Patterson has confessed to his crimes and is currently going through court proceedings and hearings, and at some point will receive a sentence for the kidnapping and murders he has committed. But that is a story that I have told before. What is remarkable about this case is Jayme working up the courage to save herself. She endured 88 days of captivity, was probably broken down emotionally once she knew that both of her parents were dead, and had an uncertain future. But, she saw her chance at escape and took it. This is by no means a template for how kidnapping victims should behave, though. They are just that: victims.
According to the FBI, fewer than 10 percent of homicide victims are killed by strangers, and, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, abductions by strangers are incredibly rare. Out of 25,000 reports of missing children in 2018, only 77 of those were abductions by strangers. When you are abducted by someone you know, someone you trust, there is a certain kind of purgatory you stay in where you don’t know how to react properly. Can you kick and scream at your neighbor, your friend, or your relative when you are in a vulnerable situation like that? Sometimes, but not always. Those stories we hear about victims who are too scared to do anything for years are just as brave, valid, and harrowing as Jayme’s own endeavours.
A $25,000 reward was offered by the FBI for information on Jayme’s whereabouts. However, because Jayme saved herself, turkey-products company Jenny-O has offered to donate the $25,000 to Jayme. If the FBI also rewards her the money, that will be $50,000 invested in the future of this remarkable young girl. I wish that all kidnapping victims could get a reward like this, or get the attention that this case got, but sometimes that is not the case. If you would like to help these victims and their families, you can donate to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at this link: www.missingkids.com/supportus.