Kid­nap­ping, killing sus­pect lived un­der the radar in Wis.

Girl’s grand­fa­ther says there’s no link be­tween fam­ily, man

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

GOR­DON, Wis. — The man sus­pected of kid­nap­ping a Wis­con­sin teenager and killing her par­ents with a shot­gun nearly three months ago ap­pears to have led an un­re­mark­able ex­is­tence un­til that fate­ful night, blend­ing into the state’s vast north­west­ern forests.

Jake Thomas Pat­ter­son grew up in Gor­don, a sprawl­ing town­ship of 645 peo­ple tucked into the snowy ev­er­green forests 35 miles south of Lake Su­pe­rior. It’s wild coun­try; road­side signs ad­mon­ish mo­torists to share the pave­ment with ATVs.

The few neigh­bors who know Pat­ter­son’s fam­ily say he grew up in a cabin in a re­mote de­vel­op­ment that’s a mix of sea­sonal and year­round homes 10 miles out­side Gor­don proper.

Pat­ter­son’s high school teach­ers barely re­mem­ber the now 21-year-old man who grad­u­ated three years ago, and say they didn’t re­al­ize he still lived in the area. Jayme Closs, 13, has told au­thor­i­ties since her es­cape Thurs­day that she was held cap­tive at that same re­mote wood­land cabin after her ab­duc­tion in Oc­to­ber from her fam­ily home in Bar­ron.

Au­thor­i­ties be­lieve Pat­ter­son went to the Closs home in­tend­ing to kid­nap Jayme. But they haven’t been able to find any con­nec­tion be­tween him and the Closs fam­ily.

Jayme’s par­ents, James and Denise Closs, were gunned down, and she was ab­ducted Oct. 15.

The girl’s grand­fa­ther, Robert Naiberg, in­sisted Satur­day that none of them know him, rais­ing ques­tions about how Pat­ter­son be­came aware of Jayme.

“He didn’t know Jayme, he didn’t know Denise or Jim,” Naiberg said. “(Jayme) don’t know him from Adam. (But) he knew what he was do­ing. We don’t know if he was stalk­ing her or what. Did he see her some­where?”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they’ve found no ev­i­dence of any on­line con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the two.

Pat­ter­son’s par­ents di­vorced in 2008, ac­cord­ing to on­line court records.

Neigh­bor Daphne Ron­ning told the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel that the par­ents moved away, but that Pat­ter­son and his older brother, Erik, con­tin­ued to stay in the cabin. She said she and her hus­band once caught them si­phon­ing gas.

An­other neigh­bor, Pa­tri­cia Os­borne, told the Minneapolis Star Tri­bune that the broth­ers of­ten got into trou­ble. She said they stole things and spent time in foster care.

The de­vel­op­ment was sealed off by po­lice Satur­day, prevent­ing re­porters from knock­ing on neigh­bors’ doors. No tele­phone list­ing could be found for Ron­ning, and Os­borne de­clined to com­ment be­fore hang­ing up.

Pat­ter­son grad­u­ated in 2015 from North­wood High School in nearby Mi­nong, a sin­gle build­ing that houses pre-kinder­garten through 12th grade. He was a mem­ber of the school’s quiz bowl team, com­pet­ing against other schools.

The Jour­nal Sen­tinel re­ported Satur­day that he wrote in a school year­book about his plan to join the U.S. Ma­rine Corps fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion, but The As­so­ci­ated Press has been un­able to con­firm if he fol­lowed through.

North­wood Su­per­in­ten­dent Jean Serum called Pat­ter­son a “quiet, good stu­dent who had won­der­ful friends and a sup­port­ive class,” but said she had no real mem­o­ries of him.

Kristin Kasinskas, one of the neigh­bors who took Jayme in after her es­cape last week, said she was Pat­ter­son’s mid­dle school sci­ence teacher. She said she didn’t re­mem­ber any­thing about him ex­cept that he was quiet.

He worked for a day in 2016 for the Jen­nie-O tur­key plant in Bar­ron be­fore he quit, say­ing he was mov­ing out of the area, ac­cord­ing to Jen­nie-O Pres­i­dent Steve Lykken. It’s un­known what he has done for a liv­ing since then. Bar­ron County Sher­iff Chris Fitzger­ald said he was un­em­ployed when of­fi­cers ar­rested him.

The sus­pect has no ap­par­ent on­line pres­ence.

It ap­pears he has been liv­ing in the fam­ily cabin; prop­erty records in­di­cate his father still owned the place in Oc­to­ber. But he has kept a low pro­file. Kasinskas told The Star Tri­bune that she didn’t even re­al­ize he was her neigh­bor.

Pat­ter­son has no crim­i­nal his­tory in Wis­con­sin, but his brother has had mul­ti­ple run-ins with the law, in­clud­ing con­vic­tions for mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion, bail jump­ing and sex­ual as­sault, on­line court records show.

Fitzger­ald hasn’t said whether Jayme was sex­u­ally as­saulted but said Satur­day that in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve Jake Pat­ter­son acted alone.

De­spite Erik Pat­ter­son’s crim­i­nal record, few across the town­ship seem to have heard of his fam­ily.

One of the busi­nesses clos­est to the de­vel­op­ment is J&K’s Half­way House Bar and Grille. Owner Karen Beeler said she’s run the place for 22 years and had never heard of the fam­ily be­fore Jake Pat­ter­son was ar­rested.

“I have no clue who they are,” she said.

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