Suspect lived under the radar
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 exis- tence 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 about 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 about 10 miles outside Gordon. Patterson’s teachers barely remember the now 21-year-old 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. The girl’s grandfather, Robert Naiberg, insisted Saturday that none of them know him, raising questions about how Patterson became aware of Jayme. 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 Patterson and his older brother, Erik, continued to stay in the cabin. Another neighbor, Patricia Osborne, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the brothers often got into trouble. She said they spent time in foster care.
The development was sealed off by police Saturday, preventing reporters from knocking on neighbors’ doors.
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 in tests of knowledge.
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.