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By David K. Li and Phil Helsel
The suspect charged in the kidnapping of Jayme Closs and murder of her parents in their Wisconsin home has no criminal record and wasn’t an immediate suspect in the grisly crime, officials said Friday.
Jake Patterson was arrested in connection to the Oct. 15 slayings of James Closs, 56, and his wife Denise Closs, 46, and the kidnapping of Jayme Closs, 13, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said.
Patterson, 21 is from Gordon, Wisconsin, the town where Jayme was found, which is about 70 miles from the family’s Barron home. The latest census data shows the town has a population of 743 people.
“This case from day one has concerned me — the volatility of this crime, to shoot two people and kidnap a 13-year-old girl is very concerning,” Fitzgerald said Friday afternoon. “We want to get the answers.”
Authorities believe Jayme was his intended target, but “nothing in this case shows the suspect knew anyone at the Closs home or at any time had contact with anyone in the Closs family,” Fitzgerald said.
Patterson worked for less than two days three years ago at a Jennie-O Turkey facility where the Closs parents worked, but it does not appear that he had any contact with her parents while there. Jennie-0 president Steve Lykken said Patterson was hired one day and quit the next.
Investigators on Friday were searching the house in Gordon where the girl was kept, described as a home in a rural setting. “They’re looking at every room in that house, any piece of evidence that can be used in this case,” Fitzgerald said.
Patterson used a shotgun to kill Jayme’s parents, and a gun consistent with the killings has been recovered but tests will determine if it was the weapon used, Fitzgerald said.
He took “great efforts to minimize his forensic footprint at the crime scene,” including shaving his head so as to not leave hair behind, the sheriff said.
“The suspect had specific intentions to kidnap Jayme, and went to great lengths to prepare to take her,” Fitzgerald said.
When Jayme escaped, Patterson was not home and investigators believe he was driving around looking for her when he was arrested.
The northwest Wisconsin community of Gordon, where Patterson lived, was “not on our radar,” Fitzgerald said earlier Friday. Patterson went to high school in the Gordon area and does not have a job, he said.
Even if Patterson has no rap sheet, MSNBC analyst and former FBI hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt said he wouldn’t be surprised if the suspect committed bad acts that just didn’t lead to an arrest.
“There were likely other offenses that we don’t know about. He might have been a stalker, he might have been a peeper, he could have done any number of things that didn’t end in an arrest,” he told NBC News. “It’d be a quantum leap, on one day, for him to suddenly decide to blow two people away and take a child.”
A 911 call from Denise Closs’ phone was made the night of the crime and deputies showed up in four minutes, authorities have said. Fitzgerald said the case is still under investigation, and some questions remain unanswered.
“I know all of you are searching for the answer of why any of this happened,” Fitzgerald said. “Believe me, so are we.”