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In the weeks and months after washing out of the Marine Corps, Jake Patterson was “basically lost,” he told police.

As he drifted through a series of short-term jobs near his hometown of Gordon, Wis., a thought grabbed hold of him: “taking a girl.”

And it could be any girl, Patterson told police in the hours after his arrest in January in the murder of James and Denise Closs at their Barron, Wis., home and the abduction of their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme, in the dark of an October 2018 morning.

“If it wasn’t Jayme, it would probably be someone else,” he told police.

That chilling detail was revealed in hundreds of pages of investigative documents released by authorities Friday in the Closs murders and kidnapping, a terrifying case that gripped the nation for months following Jayme’s disappearance and her daring escape after 88 days of captivity in Patterson’s secluded rural Wisconsin home.

Patterson, then 21, was arrested just minutes after Jayme’s escape. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping and is serving two consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.

The police files released Friday shed new light on Patterson’s motivation and his actions while he kept Jayme prisoner.

A year after Patterson was discharged from the Marines in 2015, he began thinking about abducting a girl.

“I just thought about that a lot. … I was starting to think about, how actually do I do this? Like more specifically, not just in general,” he said, according to a transcript of the police interview.

Then he spotted Jayme getting on a school bus one day.

“She was the first girl I thought, like hey, I can do this,” he said.

Within days, he made his first attempt, but “chickened out,” he told police. He made a second attempt but also turned back.

On Oct. 15, he went through with his plan, showering and shaving his face and head so as not to leave any evidence at the scene. He cleaned a Mossberg .12-gauge shotgun and loaded it with six slugs, wiping each one before slamming them into the gun.

Missed opportunity

The reports reveal just how close police were to catching Patterson immediately after his attack on the Closs family, whom he’d never met.

As officers responded to a frantic 911 call from Denise Closs, they passed a maroon Ford Taurus heading east from the home on busy Hwy. 8. An officer switched on his radar, then let the car go when the readout showed it traveling 54 mph in a 55 mph zone.

What they didn’t know is that it was Patterson making his escape with Jayme bound and gagged in the trunk.

When Patterson got Jayme to his family’s cabin, set among heavy woods outside Gordon, some 75 miles from Barron, he was immediately struck with remorse for the horrific crime he’d committed.

“I felt super, super, super, super bad,” he told police. “Like it was instant, instant regret.”

At first he was convinced he would soon be caught, but after about two weeks, he began to think, “I might get away with this.”

It was fear that kept Jayme imprisoned in the shabby house.

“I know she was … terrified of me,” he said. “I mean, she’s just a kid.”

Patterson told police that he and Jayme passed some of their days watching TV and playing board games. Occasionally, on nice days, they’d go out in the yard and play catch or badminton.

They never talked about the night of the murders.

“She talked about her parents as if they were still alive,” he said. “I couldn’t tell her they weren’t.”

Patterson had only vague thoughts of the future, he told police.

“It was pretty impulsive-ish,” he said. “I mean, I just thought I’d get a job, rent an apartment.

“Like, I honestly, until barely right now, thought about the murders.”

On a few occasions, he and Jayme heard news broadcasts about the case. Each time, Patterson said, he quickly switched to another station and apologized to Jayme: “I just told her that I’m not gonna kill you.”

Jayme often asked how long she would be held there, he said. About a year, he’d tell her.

About two weeks before Jayme’s escape, he allowed her to write a letter to her aunts.

“I was looking at her, and I felt really guilty,” he told police. “I wanted to let her at least tell her family that she’s OK and alive.” But he never delivered the letter.

On the afternoon of Jan. 10, Patterson left Jayme alone when he went to his mother’s home in Haugen, Wis. When he returned, Jayme was gone. She’d grabbed some shoes and he saw her tracks in the snow. She was found by a neighbor walking her dog. Patterson, who was cruising the neighborhood looking for Jayme, was arrested minutes later.

“I guess,” Patterson told police, “she deserves … to [expletive] be free.”

Staff writer Dan Browning contributed to this report. marylynn.smith@startribune.com 612-673-4788 john.reinan@startribune.com 612-673-7402