Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, led an unremarkable life before allegedly kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and murdering her parents in their Barron, Wisconsin on October 15, 2018. Patterson has been charged with two counts of first degree intentional homicide, one count of kidnapping and one count of armed burglary after being arrested on January 10th, less than 30 minutes after Jayme escaped from captivity and identified him to police. According to authorities, he has no prior criminal record. His work history features a handful of short-term stints in between long periods of unemployment. And unlike the vast majority of his peers, Patterson was not on social media and has almost no online footprint, making it all the more difficult to form a three-dimensional picture beyond his monstrous crimes.
The criminal complaint released by the Barron County Sheriff’s Department earlier this week details Patterson’s alleged confession, including the numerous steps taken to hide his identity from authorities, but offers little insight into his motive. According to the complaint, the murders of James and Denise Closs were a means to an end, eliminating them as witnesses to his ultimate goal of kidnapping their daughter, a girl he’d only seen for a few seconds boarding a school bus, whose name he did not know until after he took her less than two weeks later.
Born in Gordon, a township 35 miles south of Lake Superior with a population of just 645 people, Patterson was raised with two siblings in a remote cabin in the woods near the Eau Claire River, by his parents, Patrick and Deborah. (It was the same cabin where he allegedly held Jayme captive for nearly three months.) Yet Patterson’s neighbors, classmates and teachers have struggled to describe what they remember about him, if they remember him at all. It took Jayme emerging from the woods “like a ghost” for some of Patterson’s closest neighbors to realize he was in there at all.
Kristin Kasinskas, who called 911 to report that Jayme was alive, and sheltered her until Patterson was captured, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she immediately recognized his name.
“When [Jayme] said the name, I said, ‘I know him — I’ve had that student,’ ” said the former high school science teacher, who lived a short distance from Patterson’s cabin. “He was a nice kid. Quiet kid. Very smart. He didn’t speak out in class.”
Another neighbor, Daphne Ronning, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Patterson, along with his brother Erik, continued to live in the cabin after his parents divorced in 2007.
“We had some problem with them when they were teenagers — we caught them siphoning gas,” Ronning said. “My husband talked with them and there was never anything else.”
Patterson’s former high school lab partner told both PEOPLE that Patterson “wasn’t the guy with school spirit.” He told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Patterson “stuck to himself, at home and at school.”
“He didn’t go to games or care about that stuff,” the lab partner said. “He just ignored everyone and everyone ignored him. He was nice. And not dumb either. He just was quiet, too quiet, which explains why he didn’t have friends. He was a loner, but I didn’t think of him as being rude. He was really awkward in conversation.”
Another former classmate, Brooke Keller, told PEOPLE she spoke to Patterson “when I had to,” but he’d respond “with one-word answers, or not even answer at all. I don’t know a thing about his life. He’d sit alone at lunch, or with a couple other kids, but no one would talk at the lunch table.”
“Honestly, he didn’t stand out at all,” Keller told the magazine. “I can’t tell you a single story about him, because he didn’t do anything. If it was just you and him in a room, no one would talk.”
Patterson’s lab partner said the introvert “definitely never had a girlfriend, and he had no girls as friends that I knew of” during high school, but Radar Online has published an interview with an alleged former girlfriend from freshman year. The woman, identified only as “Briana,” said Patterson had a “roadkill fetish.”
“It was an insane obsession of his,” she said. “His cabin was full of animal heads, but I don’t think people understand that he found those animals on the side of the road and stuffed them himself…. [when] he told me he was ‘experimenting’ with animals. I was like, ‘What the fuck?’”
Briana told Radar that she and Patterson dated for just a few months, but it was long enough for her to witness his dark side.
“He’d lose his temper easily,” she alleged in the interview. “He was quiet, but when he got mad, he was a completely different person. … He slashed my mom’s tires a few days after we broke up.”
After high school, Patterson enlisted in the Marines, but was stationed at Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego for just one month, from September to October 2015, but dropped out before completing boot camp, NBC San Diego reports.
According to a Marine spokesperson, “Patterson’s premature discharge and rank are indicative of the fact that his character didn’t match the Marine’s expectations.”
Patterson embellished his time with the Marines when applying for a job at a local liquor store just days before his arrest, according to KARE 11. In the job application, Patterson wrote that he was at Marines boot camp for nine months in 2017. According to authorities, Patterson was not working at the time of the murders and Jayme’s kidnapping, which conflicts with his job application claim that he worked at Bohman Concrete from April to November 2018.
Patterson’s social life seemed mostly limited to his family; when his father and brother visited the cabin in recent months, Patterson told police that he trapped Jayme under his bed and turned up the radio. On another occasion, Patterson left Jayme there for 12 hours while he went to visit his grandfather, and threatened that “bad things would happen” if she tried to escape.
“Something went terribly wrong, nobody had any clues,” Patterson’s grandfather, Jim Moyer, said. “We are absolutely heartbroken. It’s wrenching to deal with. He was shy and quiet, he backed off from crowds, but a nice boy, polite. Computer games were more of a priority than social interaction.”
While Patterson attended his arraignment on Monday via a video stream from the Barron County Jail, his brother Erik and father Patrick were in the courtroom and sat behind the prosecution.
“All I care about right now is Jayme’s family,” Patrick Patterson said afterwards, overcome with emotion. He told a reporter for CNN that he wanted to “get them a note,” but didn’t elaborate further.
Patterson is now being held in Polk County after being moved on Monday night, following his arraignment. According to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, one of Jayme’s relatives works at the Barron County facility and transferring Patterson was an “administrative decision” and unrelated to any safety issues. He said that Patterson will be jailed in Barron County during future court appearances, the next of which is scheduled for next month.