MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Jake Patterson, the man accused of kidnapping Jayme Closs and killing her parents, pleaded guilty to those crimes before a Wisconsin judge Wednesday afternoon.
Patterson was visibly emotional at the arraignment hearing. He followed along as Judge James Babbler detailed the charges, sniffling and pausing before he answered each charge.
He pleaded guilty to killing James and Denise Closs in October and kidnapping their 13-year-old daughter. He faces two consecutive life in prison sentences for the two murder charges alone. Jayme’s family and friends filled a Barron County courtroom, staring down Patterson as just his father and sister looked on behind him.
Patterson’s attorneys took time to explain why their client took the unusual step of a guilty plea, pointing out they had not had enough time to get through all of the evidence, and talk him through the many options he still has.
“He’s rejected all of that and decided this is what he’s wanted to do,” attorney Richard Jones said. “He’s been consistent with that from the time we’ve met … This is his choice. We represent him. We work for him.”
In exchange for a guilty plea, the armed burglary charge against Patterson was dropped. And no criminal charges from Douglas County will be filed — the county where Jayme was held for 88 days forced to stay under a bed in Patterson’s hunting cabin.
As today’s 17-minute hearing came to an end and some closure seemed close. Patterson turned to the courtroom and said, “Bye, Jayme,” as an officer quickly escorted him out, as his dad shook his head sobbing in the front row.
A criminal defense attorney, who isn’t connected to the case, said a not-guilty plea wouldn’t have been uncommon, despite the fact that Patterson admitted to investigators how he committed the crimes.
“There’s just a certain life to a case, and if the arraignment is extremely early, it would probably be irresponsible to allow your client to resolve it at that date, especially in a case this serious,” Lynne Torgerson said. “But ultimately it’s [Patterson’s] decision.”
In a phone call to WCCO from jail, Patterson says he feels regret for what he’s done.
Jeanne Nutter, the woman who helped Jayme to safety after the teenager escaped Patterson’s home, spoke to WCCO-TV Wednesday. Nutter was walking her dog when she helped Jayme get to a neighbor’s home so they could call 911. The former social worker said she’s relieved Patterson pleaded guilty and won’t stand trial.
“I know Jayme won’t have to endure a trial which can be long and arduous, and I just felt a great sense of relief for her,” Nutter said.
Patterson’s sentencing is scheduled for May 24.