Hundreds of pages of recently released records show the exhaustive efforts of investigators to track down evidence that might lead to the recovery of Jayme Closs, a 13-year-old girl who was abducted from her Barron, Wis., home shortly after midnight Oct. 15, 2018, with her parents, James and Denise Closs, left behind dead, both shot by her captor.
The records read like a case study of frustration, full of seemingly promising leads that turned into dead ends.
Ultimately, Closs herself would resolve the case and bring her kidnapper, 21-year-old Jake Patterson, to justice Jan. 10, 2019, by escaping from the rural Gordon home where she had been held captive.
The search for Jayme
By Patterson’s own account, he selected Closs at random as he saw her get onto a school bus during his drive to work one day at the Saputo Cheese plant in Almena, where he was briefly employed. That fact left few threads for authorities to follow. But they never quit during the 88 days Jayme remained Patterson’s prisoner.
Investigators questioned and requestioned family members, co-workers, neighbors, Jayme’s classmates, teachers and registered sex offenders throughout the Northland. They scoured online activity, including social media accounts. They gathered DNA samples from many of those they interviewed.
An Amber Alert was issued seeking the public’s help in locating Jayme. Calls came in from near and far. People thought they saw Jayme at a CVS store in Baton Rouge, La.; a synagogue in St. Petersburg, Fla.; three Kwik Trip gas stations across Wisconsin; an Arby’s in Ashland; Walmart stores in Dodgeville and Janesville, Wis.; a McDonald’s in New Lisbon, Wis.; and a Burger King in St. Cloud, Minn.
Agents were dispatched to review video evidence and interview witnesses as these reports rolled in, yet none of the sightings panned out.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources led a citizen search along U.S. Highway 8 on Oct. 18. They collected a flashlight, several pairs of latex gloves, a Mickey Mouse stocking cap and five shell casings, among other items.
A total of 86 citizen volunteers showed up to help with search efforts. They were required to provide identification, including names and addresses, which law enforcement recorded.
The DNR organized another citizen search in a 2.5-mile radius of the house Oct. 23, and this time, roughly 2,000 volunteers showed up.
Investigators also responded to tips of all sorts, although many of them proved to be unfounded.
Both James and Denise Closs worked supervisory jobs at the Jennie-O turkey-processing plant in Barron, and there was speculation that a disgruntled employee may have been responsible for their deaths.
Investigators requested the names of all the employees who had lost jobs while working alongside the Closses in the past two years. They also talked to dozens of current Jennie-O workers, collecting DNA from almost everyone they interviewed.
They questioned family members, exploring potential rifts. Agents also made note of family members’ demeanor — emotional or detached — during questioning.
Leads to nowhere, and an unexpected discovery
Covert cameras were installed around the Closs home in hopes the perpetrator would return to the scene of the crime. These cameras actually captured someone entering the residence through an unlocked sliding glass door, but not the person responsible for the murders and Jayme’s abduction.
Barron County files documented Kyle Jaenke Annis, a “noted sex offender,” broke into the Closs home Oct. 27 “to seek artifacts of Jayme Closs” after the widely publicized crime. A report from the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation found that he drank a half-gallon of chocolate milk from the refrigerator, leaving the carton in Jayme’s bedroom before making away with a few undergarments and a pink shirt.
Investigators responded to some unconventional leads, as well, including one from Shawano County Sheriff Randy Wright who consulted with an astrologer he said had earlier helped solve a case. This source divined that Jayme had been abducted, raped and left in a small pond or lake northeast or east of her home. The person also predicted that the perpetrator’s first name was Eddie or his last name was Edwards.
Following the tip, agents interviewed a registered sex offender in the area with the first name of Edward, and FBI agents conducted a series of water searches near the Closs home.
Other leads were discredited more rapidly, such as a bar patron who claimed that Jayme had been offered for sale on the dark web — hidden online content inaccessible with conventional search engines — for $52,000. Officers responding to the scene questioned this man and quickly learned that he was drinking in violation of the terms of his probation and was “off his meds.”
Following tips, investigators searched properties in Almena, Comstock, Spooner and elsewhere.
Vehicle evidence aids investigation
For all the unproductive leads authorities chased down, one bit of evidence did seem to be leading them on the right path to potentially catch up with Patterson.
Just moments after fleeing the Closs home with Jayme in the trunk of his red 1990 Ford Taurus, Patterson was met by three Barron County Sheriff’s Office squad cars responding to the distraught 911 call Denise Closs placed prior to her death. Dash camera footage shows Patterson’s vehicle pulling over to let the officers pass with lights and sirens activated.
Afterward, Patterson continued east on U.S. Highway 8 and north on U.S. Highway 53 to his home in Gordon. The footage shot in the dim light of the early morning makes it difficult to discern the make and color of Patterson’s vehicle.
But investigators also relied on other cameras that captured images of passing traffic along Patterson’s route to supplement their knowledge of the vehicle he was driving. Patterson had stolen a plate off a truck parked in Sarona and used it to replace his own prior to invading the Closs home.
Initially, authorities sought information on any Dodge Challenger from 2008-2014 that may have been sighted in the area that night. But over time, investigators zeroed in on either a red or maroon Ford Taurus.
Investigators called on the owners of such vehicles in Turtle Lake, Birchwood, Superior, Cumberland, Baronett, Prairie Farm and Cameron prior to Patterson’s arrest behind the wheel of his own car in Gordon.
What Patterson's family didn't know
After Patterson was apprehended, his father, Patrick Patterson, was questioned. The senior Patterson resided primarily with a girlfriend in Duluth. However, about once a week, he visited his son who lived alone at a family residence in Gordon.
During those visits, Jayme was forced to wait under Jake’s bed, which he barricaded with plastic bins containing free weights. He left a television and radio playing to cover any noise Closs might make and warned her to keep quiet or face the consequences.
Patrick Patterson said he went into Jake’s room only once to turn down the radio and described it as “trashed.” He said he had no knowledge of Jayme’s presence in the home.
On Dec. 30, 2018, the whole Patterson family — Jake, his brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his sister, father and father’s girlfriend — gathered for a belated Christmas celebration in Gordon as Jayme lay cloistered upstairs beneath the bed of her abductor.
At noon, Patrick Patterson suggested his three children pay a visit to their mother in Haugen. The couple had divorced in 2008. He told investigators his children returned to their home in Gordon at around 4 or 5 p.m. As he recounted the events of the day, the interviewers noted: “Patrick stopped what he was saying and dropped his head,” realizing aloud that he had unwittingly been left alone in the house with the captive Jayme for several hours.
“Patrick was very upset and wanted everyone and Jayme’s family to know that he was sorry and could not understand how this had happened,” special agents reported.
Deborah Lynn Frey, Jake Patterson’s mother, who has since remarried, said her son had enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school, but he was discharged for health reasons after less than three months due to chest pains. He returned home crestfallen. Frey said the experience "broke him” and she worried about his mental health.
Patrick Patterson expressed frustration that his son seemed unwilling or incapable of holding down a steady job. Instead, Jake relied on weekly cash payments from his father to keep food on the table.
Jake's checkered work history attests to his restlessness.
He was hired at the Menards distribution center in Eau Claire in 2016 but never actually showed up.
He worked one shift at Jack Link's and then stopped showing up.
He was hired at Quanex Building Products in Rice Lake in 2017, but that job didn’t last either.
He completed a one-hour orientation at McDonald's in Rice Lake in 2017 and then never showed up again.
He worked two days at the Saputo Cheese Factory.
He dropped off an application at Bohmann Concrete in Hayward but never actually got hired, although he claimed to have worked there on a subsequent resume.
He again applied at Jack Link's on Jan. 7, 2019, omitting the fact that he had been hired there before.
He submitted online applications for Marketplace grocery and Mosquito Squad in Hayward on Jan. 10, using his mother’s computer in Haugen.
Later that same day, he was arrested.
Patterson pleaded guilty to the double murder of James and Denise Closs and to the abduction of their daughter, Jayme. He was sentenced to life without parole and is now serving time.
Meanwhile, Closs, now age 14, has returned to school and lives with an aunt and uncle.
Earlier this year, on the anniversary of her abduction, family attorney Chris Gramstrup read a statement from Jayme: "I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me. I'm very happy to be home and getting back to the activities that I enjoy.
"I love hanging out with all my friends, and I feel stronger every day."
Reporter Tom Olsen contributed to this story.