Man pleads guilty to kidnapping Jayme Closs, killing parents

BARRON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs, killing her parents and holding her captive in a remote cabin for three months, in a move that spares the girl and her family from the possible trauma of having to testify at his trial.

Jake Patterson, 21, pleaded guilty to two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a count of armed burglary. Patterson faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced May 24; Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

Patterson had said he would plead guilty in a letter sent earlier this month to a Minneapolis TV station, saying he didn't want the Closs family "to worry about a trial."

Patterson admitted kidnapping Jayme after killing her parents, James and Denise Closs, on Oct. 15 at the family's home near Barron, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Minneapolis. Jayme escaped in January, after 88 days in Patterson's cabin in near the small, isolated town of Gordon, some 60 miles (97 kilometers) from her home.

Patterson stoically answered "yes" and "yeah" to repeated questions from Barron County Judge James Gabler about whether he understood what he was doing. Later, as he responded "guilty," to each count, he could be heard sniffling. He paused for several seconds after the judge asked him about the kidnapping charge before stuttering, "guilty."

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Jayme Closs kidnapping case
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Jayme Closs kidnapping case
Jayme Closs (Photo: FBI Milwaukee)
This photo provided by the Barron County Sheriff's Department in Barron, Wis., shows Jake Thomas Patterson, of the Town of Gordon, Wis., who has been jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges in the October killing of a Wisconsin couple and abduction of their teen daughter, Jayme Closs. Closs was found alive Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in the Town of Gordon. (Barron County Sheriff's Department via AP)
A sign is seen in the small town of Barron, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, where 13-year-old Jayme Closs was discovered missing Oct. 15 after her parents were found fatally shot at their home. A search was being organized to find the couple's missing daughter. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) missing person poster shows Jayme Closs, a 13-year-old Wisconsin girl, missing since her parents were discovered fatally shot three months ago, has been located in Gordon, Wisconsin, U.S. as seen in this poster provided January 11, 2019. FBI/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Volunteers search a field along 15th Ave. near highway 25 just north of Barron, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was discovered missing Oct. 15 after her parents were found fatally shot at their home. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald holds up the booking photo of Jake Thomas Patterson, who allegedly kidnapped Jayme Closs, during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Barron, Wis. Closs, a 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed, was found alive in the rural town of Gordon, Wis., about about 60 miles north of her home in Barron. Investigators believe Patterson, who was taken into custody shortly after Closs was found, killed her parents because he wanted to abduct her. (Jean Pieri/Pioneer Press via AP)
Greg Niemuth, of Eau Claire, Wis., searches a wooded area along 15th Av. near Highway 25, north of town for missing 13-year-old Jayme Closs in Barron, Wis., Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018. Hundreds of volunteers in rows walked through swamps, cornfields and woods on Tuesday in search of clues that might lead investigators to the Wisconsin girl whose parents were killed and who is believed to have been abducted. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
Jayme Closs (Photo: FBI Milwaukee)
Louie Lauderdale, of Lake Geneva, Wis. searches near a cornfield along 15th Ave. near highway 25 just North of Barron, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was discovered missing Oct. 15 after her parents were found fatally shot at their home. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald speaks during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Barron, Wis., regarding the arrest of Jake Thomas Patterson, who allegedly kidnapped Jayme Closs, Closs, a 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed, was found alive in the rural town of Gordon, Wis., about about 60 miles north of her home in Barron. Investigators believe Patterson, who was taken into custody shortly after Closs was found, killed her parents because he wanted to abduct her. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)
A Barron County, Wis., sheriff's vehicle sits Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, outside the home where James Closs and Denise Closs were found fatally shot on Oct. 15. A search was being organized to find the couple's missing 13-year-old daughter, Jayme. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
Hundreds of volunteers gather Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Barron, Wis., to assist in the search for Jayme Closs, a missing teenage Wisconsin girl, whose parents were killed in the family's home. Jayme has been missing since Oct. 15, when deputies responding to a 911 call found that someone had broken into the family's home in Barron and gunned down James and Denise Closs. (Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)
Volunteers cross a creek and barbed wire near Barron, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, on their way to a ground search for 13-year-old Jayme Closs who was discovered missing Oct. 15 after her parents were found fatally shot at their home. The search for Closs was expanded Tuesday, with as many as 2,000 volunteers expected to take part in a search of the area. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
Jayme Closs (Photo: FBI Milwaukee)
Volunteers line up along Highway 25 just north of Barron, Wis., Oct. 23, 2018, to assist in the search for Jayme Closs, a missing teenage Wisconsin girl, whose parents were killed in the family's home. Jayme has been missing since Oct. 15, when deputies responding to a 911 call found that someone had broken into the family's home in Barron and gunned down James and Denise Closs. (Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)
Volunteers gather at a cornfield along 15th Ave. near highway 25 just North of Barron, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, as they search for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was discovered missing Oct. 15 after her parents were found fatally shot at their home. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
People attend a gathering during a moment of silence for Jayme Closs at the Barron High School Football Stadium, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Authorities revealed they're looking for two vehicles in connection with the disappearance of the Wisconsin girl whose parents were gunned down last week, calling on hundreds of volunteers to resume a ground search. State, local and federal investigators have been searching for Closs since early Oct. 15, when deputies discovered someone had broken into the family's rural Barron home and shot her parents to death. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
Jayme Closs (Photo: FBI Milwaukee)
Chris Kroeze, a contestant from the show The Voice, performs during a vigil for Jayme Closs at the Barron High School Football Stadium in Barron, Wis., Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Authorities revealed they're looking for two vehicles in connection with the disappearance of the Wisconsin girl whose parents were gunned down last week, calling on hundreds of volunteers to resume a ground search. State, local and federal investigators have been searching for Closs since early Oct. 15, when deputies discovered someone had broken into the family's rural Barron home and shot her parents to death. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
Steven Fowler of luck Wis., and his dog Cheeka search a cornfield along 15th Ave. near highway 25 just North of Barron, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, for 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was discovered missing Oct. 15 after her parents were found fatally shot at their home. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
A group of volunteers searched the ditches along highway 8 Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Barron, Wis., near the home where 13-year-old Jayme Closs lived with her parents James, and Denise. (Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)
Jayme Closs (Photo: FBI Milwaukee)
People attend a gathering during a moment of silence for Jayme Closs at the Barron High School Football Stadium in Barron, Wis., Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Authorities revealed they're looking for two vehicles in connection with the disappearance of the Wisconsin girl whose parents were gunned down last week, calling on hundreds of volunteers to resume a ground search. State, local and federal investigators have been searching for Closs since early Oct. 15, when deputies discovered someone had broken into the family's rural Barron home and shot her parents to death. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
Wisconsin DNR warden supervisor Russell T Fell selected 100 volunteers to searched the ditches along highway 8 Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Barron, Wis., near the home where 13-year-old Jayme Closs lived with her parents James, and Denise. (Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)
Wisconsin DNR warden Supervisor Russell T Fell selected 100 volunteers to searched the ditches along highway 8, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Barron, Wis., near the home where 13-year-old Jayme Closs lived with her parents James, and Denise. (Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)
Joan Smrekar talked about the night that she heard two gunshots at the home were where 13-year-old Jayme Closs parents James, and Denise was killed Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Barron, Wis. (Jerry Holt /Star Tribune via AP)
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald speaks during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Barron, Wis., regarding the arrest of Jake Thomas Patterson, who allegedly kidnapped Jayme Closs, Closs, a 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed, was found alive in the rural town of Gordon, Wis., about about 60 miles north of her home in Barron. Investigators believe Patterson, who was taken into custody shortly after Closs was found, killed her parents because he wanted to abduct her. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald holds up the booking photo of Jake Thomas Patterson, who allegedly kidnapped Jayme Closs, during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Barron, Wis. Closs, a 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed, was found alive in the rural town of Gordon, Wis., about about 60 miles north of her home in Barron. Investigators believe Patterson, who was taken into custody shortly after Closs was found, killed her parents because he wanted to abduct her. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)
Community members listened as representatives from various Wisconsin law enforcement agencies speak during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Barron, Wis., regarding the arrest of Jake Thomas Patterson, who allegedly kidnapped Jayme Closs. Closs, a 13-year-old northwestern Wisconsin girl who went missing in October after her parents were killed, was found alive in the rural town of Gordon, Wis., about about 60 miles north of her home in Barron. Investigators believe Patterson, who was taken into custody shortly after Closs was found, killed her parents because he wanted to abduct her. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)
Kristin Kasinskas, who lives on S. Eau Claire Acres Circle with her husband, Peter, speak with the media Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Gordon, Wis. Kristin Kasinskas called 911 on Thursday, to report that Jayme Closs, 13, had been found after another neighbor out walking her dog encountered her and brought her to Kasinskas' house. Closs went missing in October after her parents were killed. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
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Defense attorney Richard Jones told Gabler that Patterson "wanted to enter a plea from the day we met him" and brushed off strategies presented to him, including trying to suppress his statements to investigators.

"He rejected all that and has decided this is what he wants to do," Jones said.

Members of the Closs family and Patterson's father and sister all left the courthouse without commenting.

According to a criminal complaint, Patterson told authorities he decided Jayme "was the girl he was going to take" after he saw her getting on a school bus near her home.

Jayme told police that the night of the abduction, the family dog's barking awoke her, and she went to wake up her parents as a car came up the driveway. While her father went to the front door, Jayme and her mother hid in the bathroom, clutching each other in the bathtub, with the shower curtain pulled shut.

They heard Jayme's father get shot. Patterson then found Jayme and her mother. He told detectives he wrapped tape around Jayme's mouth and head, taped her hands behind her back and taped her ankles together, then shot her mother in the head. He told police he dragged Jayme outside, threw her in the trunk of his car, and took her to his cabin, the complaint said.

During Jayme's time in captivity, Patterson forced her to hide under a bed when he had friends over and penned her in with tote boxes and weights, warning that if she moved, "bad things could happen to her." He also turned up the radio so visitors couldn't hear her, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors in Douglas County, where Jayme was held, announced soon after Patterson's arrest that they did not plan to bring charges in that county — a move seen as potentially sparing her from having details of her treatment becoming public. Patterson's plea Wednesday increases the chances that those details will remain private.

Authorities searched for Jayme for months and collected more than 3,500 tips. On Jan. 10, Jayme escaped from the cabin while Patterson was away. She then flagged down a woman who was out walking a dog and pleaded for help. Patterson was arrested minutes later.

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Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed from Minneapolis.

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Check out AP's complete coverage of Jayme Closs' abduction and her parents' deaths.

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