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Closs kidnapper Patterson sentenced to life in prison

BARRON — Jayme Closs broke her silence Friday as an attorney read her words in a statement she had written during the sentencing of her kidnapper, Jake Patterson.

“It makes me the most sad that he took away my mom and my dad. I loved them very much, and they loved me very much. He took them away from me forever,” Jayme said, through her attorney.

Jayme also lost her bedroom and everything important to her in her house.

“I don’t want to see my home and my stuff because it reminds me of that night. He took that away from me, and left me with a horrible memory,” she wrote.

Jayme said she used to love dancing and going out. That is gone, too, as she has lost her sense of safety.

“He took all those things away from me too. It’s too hard for me to go out in public. I get scared and I get anxious,” she wrote.

However, Jayme wrote that she overcame the horrors she went through during her 88 days in captivity.

“He thought he could own me, but he was wrong. I will always have my freedom, and he will not,” she wrote. “Jake Patterson could not take away my courage. I was brave, and he was not. He can never take away my spirit. He thought he could make me like him, but he was wrong. He can’t stop me from being happy, and doing great things with my life.”

In March, Patterson pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping for shooting and killing James and Denise Closs, then kidnapping Jayme.

On Friday, Barron County Judge James Babler sentenced Patterson, 21, of Gordon, to life in prison with no possibility of parole on each homicide charge, consecutive to each other. Also, he sentenced Patterson to 25 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision on the kidnapping conviction.

At a press conference after the sentencing, Jennifer Smith, Jayme’s aunt, thanked the judge for the sentence.

“We are satisfied with the outcome, and it will give Jayme some much-needed piece of mind,” Smith said.

Smith thanked the media for giving Jayme the privacy she needs to cope. She added that Jayme is spending time with friends, family and her dog, Molly.

Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright echoed Smith’s comments that the right verdict was handed down.

“I hope the result of this case will give Jayme some level of comfort, that he will never terrorize her again,” Wright said.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald thanked the media for helping keep Jayme’s story in the public eye.

“We can learn from this 13-year-old girl to never give up hope,” Fitzgerald said.

Patterson speaks

Moments before sentencing, Patterson fought through tears as he spoke moments before the sentencing.

“I would do absolutely anything to take back what I did. I would die,” Patterson said. “To bring them back. I don’t care about me. I’m just so sorry.”

Babler said there are several factors he considered in coming to his ruling. He described Patterson as “one of the most dangerous men to ever walk on this planet” and called him the “embodiment of evil.”

“You planned this. You had a mask. You stole a license plate,” Babler said to Patterson. “These crimes rank as the most heinous and dangerous I’ve ever seen here, or probably in the United States. I was shocked by the brutalness, and I’ve seen a lot of crimes in my career.”

Wright went through each step Patterson took in advance of the kidnapping, from shaving his head bald to eliminate leaving behind any DNA, to placing fake license plates on his car and removing a cord that allowed the trunk to be opened from the inside. Wright described how Patterson arrived at the home Oct. 15, shot and killed James Patterson, kicked in the door to the house, and entered the bathroom where Denise and Jayme were hiding. Patterson shot and killed Denise and took Jayme.

“Jake Patterson is a cold-blooded killer,” Wright said. “He has no empathy or remorse for killing James and Denise.”

911 call

The 911 call that Denise placed moments before her death was played in court. Patterson wrestled the phone out of Denise’s hand and threw it aside. He ordered Denise to wrap the duct tape around her mouth. Patterson wound up doing it himself, then he pointed the gun at Denise and shot her in the head.

“The defendant didn’t even look at Denise as he killed her,” Wright said.

Patterson took Jayme to an isolated cabin near Gordon, where he kept her hostage. He kept her in constant fear at the Gordon residence, warning her that he could make things much worse for her, Wright said.

“He physically hit her with a curtain rod,” Wright said.

She was forced to spend many hours under a bed, with weights in baskets placed around it so she couldn’t get out. She was held there for hours on end without food, water or bathroom breaks.

However, Jayme made the decision to escape on Jan. 10.

“Seconds turned into minutes as she shoved the totes and weights away from the bed,” Wright said.

Wright said Jayme was nervous about what would happen if Patterson was just outside the house, or if he would pull up in his car when she was outside.

“Jayme was not out of danger when she went outside and down the road,” Wright said.

Jayme found a woman, Jeanne Nutter of Strum, who owned a cabin in Gordon and was out walking her dog. They went to a nearby house and called police. Patterson was arrested a short time later.

Threat remained

Patterson sat silently, but he shook his head in disagreement as Wright said that Jayme and the three people who helped save her weren’t out of danger from him.

Wright said that if Patterson were ever released, he would undoubtedly try to find Jayme again.

“If he were released, anyone who stands between him and Jayme would be in peril,” Wright said.

Even if he moved on from Jayme, he would be a threat to another young person, Wright said.

Defense attorney Charles Glynn told Babler that much was made of Patterson not sitting down with an investigator for a pre-sentence investigation, but Glynn said that was at his recommendation. Glynn said that Patterson told him the first day he met him that Patterson was prepared to go to prison for the rest of his life. Glynn pointed out that Patterson could have dragged out the case with a lengthy trial, including more charges coming from Douglas County. He called it “unprecedented” that the sentencing was occurring just 134 days after Patterson was arrested.

“He made that decision (to enter a guilty plea,) and he made that decision and conveyed it to us on Jan. 13. That doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t understand the horrible actions he’d taken, or doesn’t show remorse,” Glynn said. “He understands he is going to die in prison, and he hasn’t asked us to argue anything else.”

Defense attorney Richard Jones asked that the sentence be modified so Patterson can get the services he needs, even though he’ll never get out of prison.

Family members

Several family members spoke prior to the sentencing, all urging Babler to impose the maximum sentence.

Jennifer Smith, Jayme’s aunt, described the pain that the girl has gone through. Smith is the sister of Denise Closs, and Jayme now lives with Smith in Barron.

“You have taken so much away from myself. Knowing what my sister went through in the last minutes of her life, trying to defend Jayme, it never escapes my mind,” Smith told Patterson.

Jayme lost her family, her home and her sense of security, she said.

“All that stuff is now just bad memories to her,” Smith said. “And that is all because of what you did.”

Lyndsey Smith, Closs’s cousin, said that Patterson took Jayme’s parents and childhood.

“All that leads back to you — one terrible person,” Lyndsey Smith said to Patterson. “There were so many sleepless nights, and not knowing what to expect next.”

Lyndsey Smith added: “The pain and heartache you put us threw is truly indescribable.”

Kelly Engelhardt, James Closs’s sister, fought through tears as she talked about the death of her brother.

“The night we got the call, I still don’t believe it. I still think I’m going to wake up someday and this will just be a bad dream,” Engelhardt said. “For 88 days, we had to listen to people talk about our family, to speculate.”

Mike Closs talked about his brother, James, saying he was a hard-working man who rarely missed work.

“He tried to do the best; he tried to provide for his family,” Mike Closs said. “Every Sunday, he’d call my mom. He’d talk about Jayme, and Denise, and what was going on that week.”

Mike Closs recalls hearing the devastating news that James and Denise were dead, and Jayme was missing. He had the awful task of telling his mother the horrible news.

“It was the hardest thing I had to do,” Mike Closs said. “The next 88 days were terrible. My kids were scared. My wife was scared. I just don’t know how to describe it. It’s a feeling you don’t want anyone else to ever go through.”

He said his brother never had a chance, as Patterson shot and killed him. He struggles to think about the pain Denise went through in her final moments.

“She didn’t die in vain; she died protecting Jayme,” Mike Closs said.


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No green bananas

Three months after Dad’s bone cancer diagnosis, he goes off his pain meds to see if he really needs them. Why would a 93-year-old worry about opioid addiction? Because he watches the news. After a day, his pain is so bad he can barely walk.

Now his plan is to take a pill every six hours, starting at 5 a.m. He needs an alarm.

“Get me the yellow one next to my bed,” he tells me. “Please.” I bring his clock radio, a gift from one of his eight kids in the 1980’s, maybe me.

“No.” I bring a small white one I used in grade school.

“No. Yellow,” he barks. He’s crabby today, which means he’s in pain. I ask, “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” he grumbles.

“If you can’t walk, we can’t keep you home,” I say gently. We’ve had this conversation before.

He looks straight ahead. “I know.”

I am the one to whom he can show his anger and frustration. If he needs anything, he calls me. Something funny happens, or another relative dies, he calls me. This is an honor, though some days also a weight.

Today I bring groceries. I won’t joke about nearly putting back his bananas: too green for a nonagenarian with cancer. I finally bring him the right alarm clock, one from his working days — three decades ago — with the old-fashioned pin you pull to set it. I put his alarm on the side table next to his lift chair, where he spends close to 20 hours a day. He can’t climb into his bed anymore.

“Not yellow,” I say, “but I bet this is the one you want?” This dingy alarm probably was white, in 1959, back when he had a 4:30 a.m. wake up for the Soo Line Railroad. I plug it in. The cord is most likely a fire hazard, but I don’t have the patience for that battle right now. And it barely reaches this table.

“You’re not going to be able to hear it,” I say.

“Yes, I will.”

“Maybe we can get an extension cord, so at least you can pick it up and turn it off when you’re in your chair. Or we can put it on the other side?”

“It’s fine as it is.”

“You won’t be able to see it.”

“Don’t worry about it.” His tone is testy.

I set the alarm for five o’clock and pull the pin. Just having this relic in my hands, all I can think is how he pulled the pin out at bedtime and then pushed the pin in before dawn and his life passed by.

Pull the pin and lay there. Carry one baby to the crib, come back and make another.

Push the pin in. Work 12 hours. Wolf down supper. Yell at a kid — “you should be ashamed of yourself,” a line Dad likely learned from his own father — then Boy Scouts or a church meeting or both. Drive another kid to basketball practice. Pick one up from choir.

Pull the pin and lay there. Contemplate the house taxes coming due, sick kids, how to pay for another daughter’s wedding. Your mortality is years away.

Did Dad pull the pin like a fire extinguisher or like a grenade? I’ll never know. We talk about grocery store ads and pain levels, about another dead guy with a too-long obituary.

I teach first-year university students, and when I cover life management I show two ways of looking at time — lower and upper case — with film clips from “Dead Poets Society.” “The first 20 problems at the end of chapter one are due tomorrow,” drones an unnamed chemistry teacher (an example of “time”). “Make your lives extraordinary,” chimes Robin Williams’ Mr. Keating (a model for “TIME”). While some 18-year-olds may not understand, my hope is some will.

Writer Annie Dillard says more about that balance between daily life and a lifetime: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. . . . A schedule is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time . . . Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

I can hear Dad’s ancient clock, annoyingly loud ticking that only a partially deaf man could sleep through. He says, “I want my alarm set for the morning. Don’t pull the pin.” He’s impatient; I’m messing with his project.

The next day, a blizzard keeps me home. I phone Dad to tell him I’m waiting to be plowed out. He hears best on speaker, so my voice fills his living room and reverberates back to me.

“How’d your alarm work?” I shout from my own living room five miles away.

He chuckles. “Well I tell you what. Not so good. You put it by my bad ear. I couldn’t hear it.”

That’s a surprise, I don’t say. “Did you get your pain pill on time?”

“I woke up on my own. The alarm went off, but it didn’t wake me.”

I say, “With an extension cord, we can put the clock on the side with your good ear.” When did I get to be such a fixer?

“Yeah, let’s try that later,” he says. I can hear in his voice: he’s feeling better. “I put my clock in a metal pan.”

I laugh. He explains, “When I was in my little cabin I slept through my alarm so many times I was afraid I’d get fired. I put that alarm clock in a tin pie plate back then so I’d hear it better. I tried it last night.”

I laugh some more at Dad’s trick from 1947. “That’s genius,” I say. “I still think you should try the clock radio. You can turn the radio up as loud as you want. That will wake you. We could set it to the polka station.”

My husband mouths: “He’ll wake up dancing.”

I say to Dad, “Bruce says to tell you: if you use the clock radio you could wake up dancing.” In my head I hear “Beer Barrel Polka,” one of Dad’s favorites. “We’ve got the blues on the run . . . .”

Dad chuckles some more. “Ya, I guess I could.”

Sometimes dealing with my father is like interacting with a stubborn 12-year-old. He needs to figure things out on his own. Sometimes it’s like caring for my three-year-old, dopey and charming and with such a ferocious love between us that I want to stop time. There’s no pin to push or pull for that.

Note: Joe See approved this column before he died on April 27. He used his old alarm clock until the last week of his life.

Next Saturday: Nickolas Butler’s appeal for planting (more) trees.


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Bicycle crash victim making progress

Carrie Flynn was biking alongside her daughter Lauren last weekend when the training session took a horrific wrong turn.

Eau Claire police say a vehicle being operated by a drunken driver struck Carrie, 46, at about 8:20 p.m. Sunday as she pedaled along the edge of Starr Avenue, just a few yards from Lauren, who was running on the sidewalk to train for the upcoming Eau Claire Triathlon.

“It was awful. It didn’t look good,” Carrie’s husband, Shawn Flynn, said Friday, noting that Carrie ended up in the middle of the road after the collision.

Lauren and others at the scene, just north of the intersection with Piedmont Road close to North High School, initially feared Carrie wouldn’t survive the trauma, Shawn said.

But Shawn is thrilled to report that Carrie, despite a host of serious injuries, is making steady progress.

“She’s pretty broken up in terms of bones, but her internal organ injuries seem to be clear and we’re not noticing any memory issues,” Shawn said. “She is moving forward.”

Carrie’s injuries included two fractured vertebrae, two broken legs, a broken arm, multiple rib fractures and two sprained ankles.

She was heavily sedated early in the week, when she had spinal fusion and other surgeries, but was able to shed her breathing tube by midweek, allowing Carrie’s family to once again hear her voice.

“Her voice is still soft and slow, but a blessing for me to hear,” Shawn wrote Thursday on Carrie’s page on Caring Bridge, a website where families can share updates about people with health challenges.

In another sign of progress, Carrie, a dental hygienist at Regis Court Dental, was moved out of critical care Thursday and into a neuro step-down critical care unit at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Shawn reported.

While the Flynns recognize Carrie faces a long road to recovery, they have been buoyed by every tiny step forward and an outpouring of support from friends and family. Families connected with North’s cross country team have stepped up to help replace Lauren’s destroyed bicycle, which Carrie was riding at the time of the crash.

His hope is that Carrie can move to a room overlooking Half Moon Lake and a section of city bike trail by June 2, when Lauren is still scheduled to participate in the triathlon. At least that would enable Carrie to catch a glimpse of her daughter in the event for which Carrie had been helping her train.

“Family means everything to her,” Shawn said of his wife of 21 years.

The vehicle that struck Carrie also hit six mailboxes, a car, a fence and a fire hydrant before leaving the scene, police reported.

Jack W. Swenson, 22, 2713 Thomas Drive, was charged Monday in Eau Claire County Court with a felony count of hit and run causing injury and a misdemeanor count of causing injury by drunken driving. A $1,000 signature bond was set for Swenson, who returns to court July 3.

As conditions of bond, Swenson cannot drink alcohol, enter taverns or have contact with Carrie or her family.

According to the criminal complaint:

Officers arrived to find Carrie lying on her side with blood coming from her head and face. She was conscious but in a lot of pain.

A witness said Swenson was driving southbound in the northbound lane on Starr Avenue and then crashed into Carrie, who was pedaling close to the curb, after merging into the correct lane of travel. Flynn went over the top of Swenson’s vehicle after the crash and landed on the street.

Swenson continued south on Starr Avenue without slowing down or stopping. The witness followed Swenson’s vehicle until officers were able to locate him.

An officer contacted Swenson, who had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and smelled strongly of intoxicants. He failed field sobriety tests and a breath test showed his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit for driving.

Swenson said he did not remember hitting anything.

When an officer told Swenson he hit a bicyclist and several objects between the 600 and 1900 blocks of Starr Avenue, Swenson started to cry and said he never does this.

Swenson repeatedly asked for his computer so he could finish an online quiz. An officer discovered Swenson was scheduled to graduate today. His permanent address is in Madison.

For his part, Shawn said he isn’t dwelling on Swenson’s fate and has faith the justice system will deal with him, although Shawn does hope the crash serves as a reminder to people to not drink and drive — ever.

“My focus is on my family,” Shawn said.

In a Friday post on Caring Bridge, Shawn wrote, “I have confidence God will provide ways to navigate this challenge.”