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Man pleads guilty to kidnapping Wisconsin girl Jayme Closs, 13, killing her parents

A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty overnight to kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs, killing her parents and holding her captive in a remote cabin for three months, in a move that spares the girl and her family from the possible trauma of having to testify at his trial.

Jake Patterson, 21, pleaded guilty to two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a count of armed burglary. Patterson faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced May 24; Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

Patterson had said he would plead guilty in a letter sent earlier this month to a Minneapolis TV station, saying he didn't want the Closs family "to worry about a trial".

Jayme Closs, right, with her aunt, Jennifer Smith, after they were reunited in Barron, Wisconsin. Source: Associated Press

Patterson admitted kidnapping Jayme after killing her parents, James and Denise Closs, on October 15 at the family's home near Barron, about 145 kilometres northeast of Minneapolis. Jayme escaped in January, after 88 days in Patterson's cabin in near the small, isolated town of Gordon, some 97 kilometres from her home.

Patterson stoically answered "yes" and "yeah" to repeated questions from Barron County Judge James Gabler about whether he understood what he was doing. Later, as he responded "guilty," to each count, he could be heard sniffling. He paused for several seconds after the judge asked him about the kidnapping charge before stuttering, "guilty."

Defence attorney Richard Jones told Gabler that Patterson "wanted to enter a plea from the day we met him" and brushed off strategies presented to him, including trying to suppress his statements to investigators.

"He rejected all that and has decided this is what he wants to do," Jones said.

Members of the Closs family and Patterson's father and sister all left the courthouse without commenting.

According to a criminal complaint, Patterson told authorities he decided Jayme "was the girl he was going to take" after he saw her getting on a school bus near her home.

Jayme told police that the night of the abduction, the family dog's barking awoke her, and she went to wake up her parents as a car came up the driveway. While her father went to the front door, Jayme and her mother hid in the bathroom, clutching each other in the bathtub, with the shower curtain pulled shut.

They heard Jayme's father get shot. Patterson then found Jayme and her mother. He told detectives he wrapped tape around Jayme's mouth and head, taped her hands behind her back and taped her ankles together, then shot her mother in the head. He told police he dragged Jayme outside, threw her in the trunk of his car, and took her to his cabin, the complaint said.

A sheriff's vehicle is parked outside the home where Jayme Closs' parents, James Closs and Denise Closs, were found fatally shot on October 15. Source: Associated Press

During Jayme's time in captivity, Patterson forced her to hide under a bed when he had friends over and penned her in with tote boxes and weights, warning that if she moved, "bad things could happen to her." He also turned up the radio so visitors couldn't hear her, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors in Douglas County, where Jayme was held, announced soon after Patterson's arrest that they did not plan to bring charges in that county — a move seen as potentially sparing her from having details of her treatment becoming public. Patterson's plea increases the chances that those details will remain private.

Authorities searched for Jayme for months and collected more than 3,500 tips. On January 10, Jayme escaped from the cabin while Patterson was away. She then flagged down a woman who was out walking a dog and pleaded for help. Patterson was arrested minutes later.

Jake Thomas Patterson. Source: Barron County Sheriff's Department