A terrified young girl and her mother bolted for cover in the bathroom of their family home.
They locked the door, huddled together in the bathtub and drew the shower curtains closed.
Denise Closs, 46, clung onto her daughter Jayme, 13, in a tight bear hug, spending what would be the last moments of her life trying to protect her little girl.
An apparent madman had just blasted his way into their home in the silence of the night after shooting dead James Closs, 56, through the front door on October 15 last year. The tiny town of Barron, in the US state of Wisconsin, had never seen anything like this before.
Jake Patterson, a 21-year-old cheese factory worker, had come to execute his carefully crafted plan to murder Jayme’s parents and abduct the teen after having watched her board a school bus weeks earlier. But James and Denise would never know his name.
Patterson forced his way into the bathroom, passed a roll of duct tape to Denise and instructed her to tape her daughter’s mouth shut. She didn’t fulfil the request to his liking, so he carried out the task himself, then aimed his shotgun at Denise. He opened fire and executed the mother-of-one at point-blank range — in front of her distraught child.
He then dragged Jayme out of the house and through her father’s blood that had pooled on the floor where he had been ruthlessly murdered moments earlier. Bound and gagged, she was bundled into the boot of the killer’s car. As they sped away, she could hear police sirens blaring while authorities raced towards her house.
For the next 88 days, Patterson held Jayme captive in a remote cabin, about 120km away in his hometown of Gordon.
During that time, he forced the middle-school student to hide under a bed when he had friends over and barricaded her in with boxes, bins and weights, warning that if she moved, “bad things could happen to her”. He sometimes left her there for as long as 12 hours without food, water or bathroom breaks. He also turned up the radio so visitors couldn’t hear her, according to documents tendered to court. On one occasion, he hit the child with a window blind cleaner.
Police received thousands of tips as the authorities and community scoured to find the missing girl. But Patterson was never on their radar. His entire criminal history up until that point amounted to only one parking ticket. And he had gone to great lengths on the night of the attack to avoid leaving any trace of forensic evidence.
‘The embodiment of evil’
On January 10, Jayme escaped and alerted authorities to the identity of her abductor. He was arrested soon after and in March pleaded guilty to kidnapping Jayme and killing her parents. By his own admission, Patterson carefully planned his crimes.
Barron County Circuit Court Judge James Babler told Patterson at his sentencing on Friday he was “one of the most dangerous men to walk this planet”. He said Patterson’s crimes were “the most heinous and dangerous” he had seen in his entire career and described him as “the embodiment of evil”.
But the court also heard a psychologist “couldn’t find anything wrong” with Patterson after evaluating him at the request of his defence team. According to the experts, Patterson wasn’t a madman at all.
Public defender Charles Glynn told the court the psychologist who interviewed Patterson “found no diagnosable mental illness”.
Glynn said the pre-sentence investigation agent fell victim to the emotion of the case and attempted to inappropriately diagnose Patterson with “sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies”.
According to fellow defence lawyer Richard Jones, the expert concluded Patterson “severely overreacted to his loneliness and resulting disconnection from most people due to self-imposed isolating behaviours”. “His criminal actions were a desperate attempt to inject some meaning into his life and give him a reason to live, without regard to the harm it would cause others,” Jones said.
In a brief statement to the court during his sentencing, Patterson said he “would do absolutely anything to take back what I did”.
“I would die to bring them back, I don’t care about me, I’m just so sorry,” he said through tears. The judge responded by explaining to the killer there was a difference between regret and remorse.
“Regret means you’re sorry you got caught,” he said.
“Remorse means you have empathy for the victims.
“I have no doubt you have regret but doubt you have remorse.”
In a 2016 analysis of 71 lone-wolf terrorists and 115 mass killers, researchers convened by the US Department of Justice found the rate of psychotic disorders to be about 20 per cent.
The overall rate of any psychiatric history among mass killers — including such probable diagnoses as depression, learning disabilities or ADHD — was 48 per cent.
About two-thirds of this group had faced “long-term stress”, including trouble at school or keeping a job and failure in business, or disabling physical injuries from the likes of a car accident.
Killer’s disturbing fantasies
While experts found Patterson wasn’t suffering from a mental illness or personality disorder, Judge Babler told him that “the actions and ideas you had are not normal”.
At his sentencing, the court heard Patterson had written notes in his jail cell, detailing his “fantasies of keeping a young girl prisoner, torturing her and totally controlling her”.
The judge told the court he “no idea what rehabilitation could be provided” for Patterson and cited “shocking” notes written by the killer in his jail cell “about keeping a young girl, torturing her and controlling her”.
“I started having bad thoughts all the time — fantasies of keeping a young girl prisoner, torturing her and totally controlling her,” the judge said Patterson wrote.
In the statement, Patterson went on to describe driving around, looking for a random girl to kidnap. He eventually concluded his best option was to carry out a home invasion at night. He grappled with whether he’d kill witnesses but ultimately decided “it wasn’t a moral problem”.
“I knew if I killed them, it would bring a lot more attention,” the judge quoted him as saying. “But if I let them live, there would be good witnesses. I finally decided it didn’t matter how much attention it got if I left no evidence or witnesses. If they sent 1000 FBI agents if they had nothing to go on.”
Patterson reportedly said he “planned on taking multiple girls and killing multiple families”.
He said he wanted to “play mind games with them” by treating them differently and “also just wanted to scare people”.
“I hated everyone but no one in particular,” the court heard Patterson said.
“Everyone I know I actually liked, but I hated society as a whole. I didn’t care if I died if I could get away with having a girl for a week, it was worth dying for. When I saw Jayme, I instantly thought she would be a good target. Actually, mostly, it was she was the first girl I saw once I had those ideas in my head.”
Judge Babler said the community wouldn’t be safe unless Patterson died in jail.
He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering James and Denise Closs and abducting Jayme.
n his sentencing submissions, County District lawyer Brian Wright said Patterson was “thinking about kidnapping a girl for several months and just waiting for the right opportunity” before he set his sights on the Closs family.
He described Patterson as a “cold-blooded killer who traumatised a 13-year-old girl for 88 days”. He also expressed concern Patterson would never stop trying to find and possibly kill Jayme if he was released from prison.
“He brutally murdered James and Denise because they stood in the way of his getting away with kidnapping the girl he saw getting out of a school bus — a girl whose name he didn’t even know when he kidnapped her,” Wright said.
According to the District Attorney, Patterson’s previous assertion he was a “good person” makes him “extremely dangerous”.
Patterson told investigators he was driving to work in October when he spotted Jayme getting on a school bus near her rural home. He decided then “she was the girl he was going to take”. Wright told the judge Patterson travelled to the Closs home on two separate occasions to kidnap her but turned back because of activity from inside her house.
That he returned on a third occasion to carry out his evil plan, which left two people dead and one child orphaned, showed it was a calculated decision made by someone who knew exactly what he was doing, the court heard.
But as for why — that’s something we may never know.