Suspect in Closs case was quiet student, former classmates say
Patterson participated in school’s Quiz Bowl, drifted into background after graduation
GORDON - Jake Thomas Patterson remains a mystery.
At Northwood School District in Minong, where he graduated from the K-12 school in 2015, Patterson was quiet and withdrawn, yet smart enough to be on a quiz team and able to crack a quick joke.
In the school’s yearbook, he said after graduation he planned to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. and wrote, “I’m finally done with school.”
It’s not clear whether Patterson ever followed through on joining the military. He did work, for just one day, at a turkey plant, and he appears to have drifted in the background in this rural swath of Wisconsin. He did not have a criminal record.
The blanks in Patterson’s story will fill in over the coming weeks and
months as he faces charges of murdering Denise and James Closs and kidnapping their 13-year-old daughter Jayme.
Eighty-eight days after her abduction, Jayme escaped from a home Thursday in Gordon where authorities said she was kept by Patterson. Sheriff ’s deputies quickly apprehended Patterson, who they believe was out driving and looking for Jayme. He surrendered without incident.
Jayme is staying with an aunt who posted on Facebook that she had a fairly good night’s sleep and that her family will support her throughout her healing process.
“It will be a long road, but we are family strong and we love this little girl so much!!” she said.
Patterson, 21, is due to make his initial court appearance Monday in Barron. Authorities have said he acted alone, using a shotgun to blast his way into the Closs home. He was targeting Jayme, they said.
“We don’t think there are any other suspects who helped him with this plan and ... kidnapping,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said Saturday.
Patterson will be represented by state public defenders Charles Glynn and Richard Jones, with assistance of the Public Defender’s Office in Barron County.
“This is a very tragic situation,” Glynn and Jones said in a statement issued late Friday. “There is a substantial amount of information, interest, and emotion involved in this case. Mr. Patterson’s legal team will be relying on the integrity of our judicial system to insure that everyone’s rights are protected and respected.”
“We await the filing of the criminal complaint and initial appearance on Monday,” they added.
Patterson graduated from high school in a class of 34 students. A description of his high school years was provided by former students who didn’t want to be named.
Classmates described him as quiet and seemingly indifferent.
“He was just kind of there,” said one former student.
Patterson was voted as the “most quiet” boy in the class of 2015.
“Randomly in class, Jake would crack a joke and it would be absolutely hilarious and the whole class would hear it,” the classmate said. Sometimes, he would sleep in class.
Another former student, who was a year behind Patterson, said, “He seemed like he was just one of those guys in school that wanted to fit in but couldn’t because he lacked social skills. ...(He) never really made an impact in any way.”
Patterson wrestled in elementary school, a classmate said, but wasn’t interested in going to sporting events in high school, a noticeable trait in a small town where life revolves around school activities.
He was a member of the school’s Quiz Bowl team, a club described by Northwood School Superintendent Jean Serum as “a battle of the brainiacs” competition between schools.
He looked like a typical kid in his freshman yearbook, tousled hair and a shy smile. He shaved his hair close sometime between the end of his sophomore year and the beginning of his junior year.
In many ways, he was known by what he didn’t do.
He didn’t go to prom and didn’t go on the senior class trip to Florida. He didn’t pose with fellow graduates in the class photo. Classmates said they don’t recall him participating in the ceremony.
“Which pretty much sums up, he was just there,” a classmate said.
A group of students posed for a photo in a senior exit project. At first glance, it appeared that Patterson wasn’t in the photo. But he was. He was sitting behind the group at a table, working on a laptop.
His home life remains unclear. Patterson’s parents divorced in 2007. Patterson has an older brother and older sister. His older brother has a criminal record, including a no contest plea to a fourth-degree sexual assault charge in 2013. The older brother was sentenced to a year’s probation.
The only job that Patterson was known to have held was at Jennie-O Turkey Store in Barron. He worked there three years ago but quit after one day. Jayme’s parents worked at the company for 27 years but authorities have said it’s not believed they crossed paths with Patterson on the job.
“How did he get like this?” the classmate asked. “He just disappeared after high school.”
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin photographer T’xer Zhon Kha contributed to this report.
Barron churches, residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations lit up LED boards and put up signs to welcome Jayme Closs home Saturday.
Patterson Freshman yearbook photo
Patterson Arrest photo
A sign at a pharmacy welcomes Jayme Closs back.