WISCONSIN — Jayme Closs’ relatives spent three months agonizing over the Wisconsin teenager’s whereabouts before she escaped from the man who’d gunned down her parents and imprisoned her in a remote cabin.
On Friday, they’ll spend a few hours facing Jake Patterson one more time in a courtroom, as he’s sentenced for killing Jayme’s parents and kidnapping the 13-year-old girl, wrapping up one chapter of a crime that gripped the nation.
Patterson, 21, will be sentenced in a Barron County court in northern Wisconsin after pleading guilty last month to two counts of intentional homicide and a count of kidnapping.
Patterson, authorities say, shot and killed James and Denise Closs early October 15 at their home outside Barron with the intent of kidnapping their only daughter, whom he’d noticed by chance just days earlier at a bus stop.
He dragged the girl from the bloody crime scene into his car’s trunk and drove off, setting off a massive search.
Authorities say he held Jayme captive in his cabin some 65 miles to the north until January 10, when the middle-schooler escaped and flagged down a woman walking a dog.
She is now living with an aunt and uncle, and has only recently appeared at public events celebrating her.
Her relatives will face Patterson in court Friday, where a sentencing hearing is expected to start at 1:30 p.m. CT (2:30 p.m. ET) and last several hours.
Several Closs family members are expected to give statements, talking about how Patterson’s crimes affected them, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
Each intentional homicide count carries a sentence of up to life in prison; kidnapping carries a term of up to 40 years.
Jayme’s escape was a massive lift to Barron, her hometown of 3,400 people, many of whom helped police scour the countryside for her. The sentencing likely will be a welcome milestone as well.
“This high-profile sentencing event will bring a true finality to yet another dramatic reminder of this crime that brought tragedy to the family and this community,” Diane Tremblay, the Barron schools superintendent, told USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin in an email.
How the killings and the kidnapping happened
Patterson decided he wanted to kidnap Jayme in October, after he saw her for the first time while she got onto a school bus, a criminal complaint released by prosecutors says.
Patterson was on his way to a temporary job at a cheese factory, and his car had stopped behind the bus near the Closs’ home.
“When he saw (Jayme), he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” the complaint says.
He then planned the abduction, grabbing his father’s 12-gauge shotgun and shaving his face and head so he’d leave no forensic evidence, authorities said.
He twice drove to the Closs house that month, but he was scared off by cars in the driveway or seeing lights and people in the house.
But during the third time, very early on October 15, Patterson drove to the home, and Jayme awoke to hear her dog barking. After she woke up her father, James Closs went to the front door, authorities said.
Patterson shot and killed James Closs at the door. Denise Closs called 911, but didn’t speak to a dispatcher. She and Jayme hid in a bathroom, while her mom held the teenager in a bear hug.
Patterson barged into the bathroom, bound Jayme by her hands and ankles and put tape on her mouth. He then fatally shot her mother, the complaint states, before dragging Jayme out to the trunk of his car and driving away.
Sheriff’s deputies drove toward the home and, unbeknownst to them at the time, passed Patterson’s car.
Patterson drove Jayme to his cabin two counties to the north, near the remote and heavily forested town of Gordon.
He didn’t know her name until after he’d kidnapped her, authorities said.
He made her hide under his twin-size bed
Jayme told detectives that Patterson would make her hide under his twin-size bed in his bedroom when he had people over, including repeated visits from his father. Patterson told her that if anyone found out she was there, bad things would happen to her, the complaint said.
When she was under his bed, he stacked totes and laundry bins around it with weights stacked against them so he’d notice if she moved them, the complaint says.
Jayme told detectives Patterson once struck her hard on her back. He said he kept her in line by yelling and hitting the walls, especially the two times he noticed she had tried to get out from under the bed, investigators said.
She sometimes stayed under the bed for as long as 12 hours, with no food, water or access to the bathroom, authorities said.
For three months, police and volunteers across northern Wisconsin searched for her, and detectives chased thousands of tips.
How Jayme escaped
On Janary 10, the unemployed Patterson told Jayme he was leaving for a few hours. He took off and applied for a warehouse job at a liquor distributor in the city of Superior.
While he was out, Jayme shoved the weights and bins away, crawled out from underneath the bed, unlocked the front door and stepped out onto a snowy property, wearing only pajamas and her captor’s sneakers, authorities said.
A woman walking her dog saw the girl, who said she needed help. The woman, recognizing Jayme from news accounts of her disappearance, hustled her to the nearest home, where they called 911.
Patterson returned to the area and was arrested shortly afterward. Prosecutors said he confessed in detail during an interview after his arrest.
What he told journalists
Since his arrest in January, Patterson has communicated with TV journalists at least twice.
In a February letter to a journalist for KARE, Patterson said he had planned to come clean all along after he was arrested. The letter was in response to two previous letters the reporter said he sent to Patterson in jail with questions. CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the letter.
“I knew when I was caught (which I thought would happen a lot sooner), I wouldn’t fight anything,” the letter said. “I tried to give them everything … so they didn’t have to interview Jayme. They did anyways and hurt her more for no reason.”
He said that he planned to plead guilty to avoid a lengthy trial.
Regarding a question of whether he’s remorseful, he described “huge amounts” of remorse and added, “I can’t believe I did this. … It was really stupid, though, looking back.”
“The reason I did this is complicated,” it said, followed by an apology in big letters.
“No one will believe or can even imagine how sorry I am for hurting Jayme this much. Can’t express it. I’m Sorry Jayme! For everything. I know it doesn’t mean much,” the letter says.
He also called a reporter with WCCO in March, telling her that he has regrets what happened.