The Race to Find Jayme Closs and the Evil Behind Her Disappearance

In the fall of 2018, 21-year-old Jake Patterson pulled into the Closs family’s driveway with one objective in mind – to kidnap Jayme Closs. Before her very eyes, 13-year-old Jayme witnessed the death of her parents by gunshot. Her ankles and wrists were then wrapped in duct tape, and she was shoved into the trunk of Jake’s car.

Jayme Closs / Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, Jayme Closs / Jake Patterson / A Forced Entry.
Source: Getty Images

Tragically, as police rushed to her home, they happened to drive right by Jake. But there was no particular reason to suspect his car, so they never even considered going after him. What followed were 88 days of captivity under Jake’s bed.

Here’s how Jayme escaped and a glimpse of how she’s doing today.

The Killer Was an Odd and Withdrawn Little Kid

Jake Thomas Patterson preferred to live off the radar. He grew up in Gordon Town Wisconsin, with his older brother Eric, and their two parents who would constantly fight. His folks eventually divorced in 2008, and their split tore the whole family apart, leaving Jake and his brother to fend for themselves.

A mugshot of Jake Patterson.
Jake Patterson. Source: YouTube

The brothers lived alone in a cabin, completely unsupervised. They relied on foster care, something that caused Jake a great deal of shame. He grew up to be a loner in high school. He barely spoke a word, didn’t show up to prom and was rarely seen smiling.

From Petty Crimes to Murder

Before long, Jake and Eric became involved in all sorts of petty crimes, either out of boredom, anger, or actual necessity (food, money). They were caught stealing gas and all sorts of resources.

An interior shot of the home where Jayme was held captive.
Source: CNN

Eric even assaulted a 15-year-old girl one time. But this act of violence was nothing compared to what his brother Jake was cooking up. One day, on his way to work at a local cheese factory, Jake spotted a little girl climbing on to a school bus. With big blue eyes, blonde hair, and a joyous spring to her step, Jake grew infatuated with the girl right on the spot.

He Tried Twice Before

The little girl Jake saw was Jayme Closs, and at that very instant, he vowed he would do everything in his means to abduct her. He began to put a plan together. He bought gloves, grabbed his dad’s gun, and attached two stolen license plates to his car.

A portrait of Jayme Closs.
Jayme Closs. Source: ABC News

To ensure that he wouldn’t leave behind any forensic evidence, Jake shaved his face and head. He began driving around her house. He made two attempts to execute his plan, once on October 5th and then again on the 7th, but with too many potential witnesses around, he retreated.

Third Time’s a Charm

On October 15th, Jake pulled into her driveway with his headlights off. The family dog began to bark, waking little Jayme up. She then tip-toed her way into her parents’ bedroom to alert them of the unexpected visitor.

An exterior shot of the Closs family home.
Photo by Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Images

Shotgun in hand, Jake approached the door. He was met by Jayme’s father, James Closs, who mistook him for a cop. James asked to see Jake’s badge, but Jake ignored his request and yelled at him to open the door instead.

Her Mom Tried to Protect Her

James refused to open up, so Jake approached the window and shot him at point-blank, shattering the windows and blowing half his face off. He then marched into the house and began his hunt for Jayme.

A picture of the forced entry.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Jayme and her mom, Denise, were cooped up in the bathroom, shivering and crying frantically. They locked the door and barricaded it with a cabinet drawer. But that didn’t stop Jake from barging in.

The Chilling 911 Call

A short while before Jake stormed into the bathroom, Denise managed to dial 911. But police would later state that when they picked up the call, they couldn’t understand what was happening. No one actually spoke into the receiver.

James Closs, Jayme Closs and Denis Closs in a family portrait.
Jayme Closs, James Closs, Denise Closs. Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

All police heard was a bunch of inaudible chatter, followed by some screams and cries. In other words – chaos – and, then, a moment of silence. It was at that very moment that Jayme saw her mom being shot to death.

Hunting Was Common, so No One Reported Anything

Later in the investigation, law enforcement would discover that the family’s neighbors had heard gunshots but didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary because hunting was common in the area.

A look inside the Closs's bathroom after Jayme's kidnapping.
Source: Barron County Sheriff’s Department

The hunt for a little, innocent girl, however, wasn’t common. Jayme’s case rattled Wisconsin. It garnered an unprecedented amount of attention, with over 3,000 people taking part in the search. Who would do such a heinous crime?

He Thought She Would Never Escape

After murdering her family and shoving her into his car, Jake drove Jayme back to his cabin where he made her change into a different set of pajamas before forcing her under his single bed. Jayme would spend 88 days in that tight space.

An evidence photo of the space under Jake Patterson's bed.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

Jake was pretty confident that Jayme wouldn’t escape. She was too frightened and wouldn’t dare to do anything stupid, he believed. But just in case, he fenced her in with heavy bags carrying barbell weights to ensure she wouldn’t run away.

Thousands of Empty Tips

In situations where a person is missing, especially a child, the chances of finding them go down with every passing hour. Police were very well aware of that and spent every hour of the day investigating different tips and leads that came from all corners of the state.

People search a field near the highway looking for Jayme.
Photo by Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Images

The FBI offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to her whereabouts. But, sadly, the thousands of calls coming in from the public proved to be futile. 95% of the tips ended up being nothing. If anything, they just added to the confusion.

A False Alarm

A week into the investigation, as Jayme’s parents were laid to rest, police received a startling call. They were told that some unknown man was breaking into the Closs’ home. The burglar was immediately caught and identified as 32-year-old Kyle Janke-Annis.

A neighbor talks about the night of Jayme's kidnapping.
Joan Smrekar. Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Images

The police believed they had found their guy, but as it turns out, Kyle was just a common criminal who wanted to steal some things. “Any child that comes up missing… it pisses me off. And it makes me want to go f*cking hunt ’em,” he explained in the interrogation room.

What Did They Do All Day?

While police were out there searching for her, Jayme was locked inside Jake’s cabin and forced to do all sorts of bizarre things with him, like play board games and watch TV. The reason I say bizarre is because, normally, kidnappers sexually molest their victims.

Barron County Sheriff speaks to the media.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald. Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Images

In Jake’s case, all he longed for was companionship: someone to live with, someone to acknowledge his existence. In his twisted mind, he wasn’t harming the girl. It was as if he genuinely believed they would live happily ever after in his grim, little cabin.

No Food, No Water, No Bathroom Breaks

Jayme was locked in Jake’s cabin and forced under his bed where she would go for hours without food, water, or bathroom breaks. When he had visitors over, he would crank up the music so Jayme couldn’t hear his conversations.

An interior shot of Jake Patterson's cabin.
Source: ABC News

Jake’s friends later reported that they had noticed a change in his mood at the time. He was friendlier, happier, more spontaneous, and kind. Having Jayme under his bed provided him with some sick form of comfort.

“Bad Things Will Happen to You”

To reinstate a sense of fear and dread he hoped would paralyze Jayme, Jake would often yell at her and threaten that if she ever dared step foot outside the cabin, bad things would happen to her and her loved ones.

A photo of Jake Patterson walking into court.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

His devious plan worked at first, and Jayme indeed spent most of her days too afraid to leave the confined prison under his bed. But two months after the killing, something flipped in her mind. It was now or never.

“You’ve Got to Help Me!”

On the afternoon of January 10th, 2019, Jake left Jayme under her bed and barricaded her, saying he would be back in a couple of hours. Once he stepped out, Jayme pushed his weights out of the way and freed herself.

A picture of Jayme Closs.
Source: ABC News

Dressed in a light T-shirt, leggings, and a pair of Jake’s sneakers, she ran from his cabin. With no plan in mind, she ran as fast as she could until she stumbled upon a woman named Jeanne Nutter who was walking her dog. In tears, she cried out, “You’ve got to help me! You’ve got to help me!”

“Lock All Your Doors and Stay Inside”

A few minutes later, the local police received a startling call.

“Hi, I have…um… a young lady at my house right now. She says her name is Jayme Closs,” said Kristin Kasinkas, Jeanne Nutter’s neighbor.

A still of Jeanne Nutter speaking during an interview.
Source: CBS News

Jeanne apparently rushed Jayme to her neighbor’s house because it was farther away from Jake’s cabin. The police officer on the other end of the line ordered the three to lock the doors, stay inside, and wait until the deputies arrived to secure the place and bring Jayme to safety.

He Raised His Hands in Defeat

When Jake arrived home that day and discovered Jayme had escaped, he quickly got in his car to search for her. As he drove around town, a deputy noticed his red car and a quick license plate search confirmed that this was, indeed, the man they were after.

A photo of the prosecution during the trial.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

Ordered out of his vehicle, Jake stepped out of the car with his hands raised and uttered, “I DID IT.” What followed, however, was weird. As they drove Jack to the station, he was somewhat calm and acted as if he didn’t know what was happening.

His Final Moments of Freedom

“You’re no longer detained. You’re under arrest now, OK?” the officer informed Jake. “Hmmm…for what?” Jake questioned. “Ah, they’ll tell you when you get to the office…It’s going to be a little bit of a drive so if you want to get comfy…”; “I don’t think that’s possible,” Jake chuckled nervously.

A still of Jake in the interrogation room.
Source: WCCO

On some level, Jake was confused and shocked, even though he very well knew that these were his final moments of freedom. Soon after his arrest, Jake confessed to killing James and Denise Closs and kidnapping Jayme.

“I Don’t Think Like a Serial Killer”

Jake was charged with two accounts of intentional homicide, one kidnapping, and armed burglary. As he sat in his cell awaiting trial, he shocked the public by writing a letter to a local reporter, offering insight into what he was thinking when he committed the crime.

An evidence photo of the bullets used on Jayme's parents.
Source: Barron County Sheriff’s Department

“The cops say I planned this thoroughly,” he wrote, “They’re really good at twisting your words around…. I’m a little mad about that. They’re trying to cover up their mistakes, I guess. This was mostly on impulse. I don’t think like a serial killer.”

He Said the Reason Was Too Complicated

Jake’s letter was his way of letting the public know what was going on inside his sick head. He didn’t want to go down without having everyone know the truth about his atrocious actions. How truthful his letter is, though, we’ll never know. And quite frankly, it doesn’t matter.

A mugshot of Jake.
Source: YouTube

Jake also wrote that he was angry and confused and that deep down he didn’t want to do it, but he somehow went ahead and did it anyway. He wrote that the reason he did it was too complex to put into words.

“If It Wasn’t Jayme, It Would Have Been Someone Else”

While Jake Patterson insisted that he wasn’t “serial killer material,” his behavior and thought pattern sure proved otherwise. Jake chose Jayme Closs at random, just because he felt an urge to kidnap a girl. “If it wasn’t Jayme, it would probably be someone else,” he told the officers.

Jayme reunites with her grandfather.
Source: Facebook

“I just thought about that a lot,” Jake admitted. “Maybe a year after that, I was starting to think about how actually do I do this? Like more specifically, not just in general.”

Who knows how many more girls he would have abducted if he had gotten away with his crime?

He Had No Long-Term Plans

When detectives pressured Jake into saying whether there was anything in particular about Jayme, that lured him, he said, “I don’t really know, it was kind of like, I just thought I could do it… I don’t know how to explain it other than that.”

A photo of Jake sitting in court.
Source: ABC News

Jake also told investigators that he hadn’t given much thought about how this would play out in the long run. In fact, he had no long-term plans whatsoever.

“I’m really good at just not thinking about stuff… that I don’t want to think about,” he explained, “Like I, honestly, barely until right now thought about the murders.”

Life in Captivity

During the trial, the sequence of events following Jayme’s kidnapping was discussed, highlighting just how terrifying her life under captivity was. Chilling images of the claustrophobic prison under his bed were shown to the jury.

A portrait of Jayme.
Source: Facebook

Jayme wasn’t present in the courtroom, but her attorney spoke for her, leaving nothing out. “Jake celebrated Thanksgiving eating out in a restaurant with his family, while Jayme was confined to his bed,” he exclaimed. “The defendant also celebrated Christmas at his grandparents’ house, while Jayme was confined to her prison under his bed. No bathroom breaks, no movement, no sound for up to 12 hours at the time. Those were his rules.”

“I Will Always Have My Freedom, and He Will Not”

In a particularly heartbreaking moment, the Closs family’s attorney read a statement from Jayme: “I don’t want to see my home or my stuff because of the memory of that night. My parents and my home were the most important things in my life,” she wrote.

A picture of Jayme's parents.
Source: Facebook

“He took them away from me in a way that will always leave me with a horrifying memory. But there are some things that Jake Patterson can never take away from me. He can’t take my freedom. He thought that he could own me, but he was wrong. I was smarter. I watched his routine, and I took back my freedom. I will always have my freedom, and he will not.”

It’s Always on Their Minds

At one point during the trial, Jayme’s aunt Kelly made pleas to the judge to implement the maximum sentencing for all of the atrocious crimes Jake had committed. “No parent should ever lose their child,” she cried.

A photo of Jayme with her aunt.
Source: Pinterest

“The night after it happened, I had to go to bed. And I have never in my life been so scared. Scared to death for my siblings, my kids, for everybody. You never go to bed if you know your niece is out there somewhere, hungry, scared. As a family, it goes in your brain, and it never stops. You never not [sic] think about it.”

He Pleaded Guilty

Jake didn’t try and fight the charges. “Guilty,” he told the judge. He wanted the trial to be over as soon as possible, but not before saying a few final words himself. “I would do absolutely anything to take back what I did,” he sobbed. “I would die. I would do absolutely anything to bring them back. I don’t care about me, I’m just so sorry.”

A picture of Jayme reunited with her family.
Source: ABC News

Unsurprisingly, no one in the courtroom shed a tear for this young man’s pitiful moment of remorse. Whether his feelings were genuine as he spoke those words is utterly irrelevant and did nothing to comfort the victim nor her family.

One of the Most Dangerous Men to Walk This Planet

As the sentencing progressed, the question of parole was on the line. But it was soon evident that the judge wasn’t going to give him any chance of escape. “There is no doubt in my mind that you are one of the most dangerous men to ever walk on this planet,” the judge announced.

An image of the highway at night.
Source: YouTube

“I have no idea what rehabilitation could be provided for you,” he added, concluding with, “Your crimes rank as the most dangerous and heinous that I have ever seen whether here or anywhere else in the State of Wisconsin, and perhaps the U.S.”

He Will Never Get Out

Jack Patterson was sentenced to two life sentences without parole, as well as an additional 40 years. In other words, he’s going to rot in jail for the rest of his sad life. Surprisingly, he wasn’t charged for the 88 days he kept Jayme under his bed.

An exterior shot of Jake Patterson's cabin.
Source: CNN

Authorities believed it wouldn’t do any good to bring her in for questioning as she had already been through enough as it is. There was also more than enough evidence to lock him up for good anyway.

Why Did He Kidnap Jayme?

One thing that was on the public’s mind at the time was WHY? What motivated him to kidnap an innocent young child, a kid he did not know, from a family he did not know, just to keep her under his bed for his own sick pleasure.

An interior shot of the kidnapper's house.
Source: CNN

One theory has to do with his mom. Deborah Frey worked as a bus school driver; therefore, many people assumed that kidnapping a girl he saw boarding a school bus triggered some sort of inhibited childhood urge for love, recognition, and acceptance.

Deborah Prays Her Son Will Find Peace Within

Deborah later spoke about how devastated and sorry she was for Jayme and her family. She remains utterly confused by how her son could have done something so ruthless as killing innocent people and kidnapping their daughter.

A dated picture of Jake Patterson with his family.
Source: Facebook

According to one of her close friends, “She’s trying to live her life. She spends hours reading the Bible and seeking out strength in Jesus.” Deborah prays her son is doing the same over there in his prison cell.

Deborah Became a Ghost

When news of her son came out, Deborah was targeted and threatened. She was verbally attacked on a daily basis and could barely see her way out the door without having someone harass her. “She didn’t come out of the house for weeks,” a source said. “She was a ghost.”

Family members of Jayme attend a press conference.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

Following her son’s arrest, Deborah told authorities that she felt that her divorce had “messed up” her two boys and that she “truly felt guilty about it.” Jake’s former teachers agreed with Deborah, saying that “something broke” in Jake after the divorce.

Jake’s Dad Was Within a Foot of Jayme

Jake’s father, Patrick, reportedly “wept” after he heard the devastating news of his son’s crimes. Moreover, he was left speechless after learning that he had once been within a foot of the abducted young girl.

A picture of Jake Patterson's family leaving the courthouse.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

Patrick used to visit Jake on a weekly basis to give him some money for food and a normal, fatherly pep talk. On one of his casual visits, he fixed dinner for the two of them, not knowing that a 13-year-old abducted girl was under his son’s bed.

Nothing Out of the Ordinary

Another creepy occasion happened when Patrick actually stepped into his son’s room to turn down the radio. He heard nothing but the loud noise coming from the stereo. He certainly didn’t hear a girl weeping or anything of that sort.

An interior shot of a room in Jake Patterson's cabin.
Source: CNN

The room seemed to be trashed, he told the cops, but other than that, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The thought that he had been in the same room as Jayme was a source of great pain to Jake’s father.

Where Is Jayme Today?

After her escape, Jayme moved in with her aunt and uncle who gradually nurtured her back into a somewhat normal life. They celebrated her 14th birthday, they took her hiking, they gave her security, food, and unconditional love.

An outdoors picture of Jayme.
Source: Facebook

They also made sure she carved out time to reconnect with her close friends from school. From the looks of it, Jayme Closs was, and still is, a true hero who is doing her best to get her life together, day by day.

She’s Dancing Again

At Jake’s sentencing, Jayme’s letter stated: “I used to love to go out with my friends. I loved to go to school. I loved to dance. He took all of those things away from me, too. It’s too hard for me to go out in public.”

A picture of Jayme before her kidnapping.
Source: Facebook

But two years after her escape, Jayme Closs has been finally able to enjoy those very same things she loved to do before it all happened. According to her aunt, she’s now dancing again and enjoying school activities as much as she can.

“Never Take Life for Granted”

Reflecting on the traumatic event, Jayme’s aunt and guardian, Jennifer Naiberg Smith, told the press that she is incredibly thankful for all those who helped solve the case and bring justice to their lives. But most importantly, she’s thankful for Jayme’s outstanding bravery.

A picture of Jennifer Smith entering the courtroom.
Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Images

The fact that she found the courage to escape isn’t something to be taken for granted. And neither is life itself. “We always want to say and remind others never take life for granted,” Smith explained. “You never know what tomorrow will bring. Always remember to take the time to tell your loved ones you love them.”

What About Jake?

It seems like Jake’s time in prison has been affecting him mentally. Initially, Jake refused to sleep in his cell. There were also reports that he was refusing to pick up calls from his family, as well as declining their visits.

A photo of Jake sitting in court.
Photo by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/Getty Images

He soon became a suicide risk. And because his case garnered a lot of publicity, he was transferred to maximum security in New Mexico. A month after his transfer, he got into a fight with another prisoner. As it turns out, kidnapping an innocent girl can make you quite unpopular in prison.

He Thought He Could Get Away With It

Jake Patterson believed he was smarter than the rest. He believed that because he had no connection to Jayme or her family, that no one would ever come his way. “It’s really hard to solve when there’s absolutely no connection,” he once told detectives.

A photo of Jayme sitting next to her grandfather in court.
Source: CBS News

Thankfully, things turned out as they did – with Jayme escaping and Jake getting the life sentence he very well deserves. Jake thought he had control over Jayme, but she outsmarted him. It is she who has control over him today and she will likely haunt his thoughts for the rest of his sorry life.