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Patterson to appear in court: What you need to know in murder, kidnapping suspect’s case

Jake Patterson1 / 2
Jayme Closs (FBI) 2 / 2

The Douglas County man accused of abducting 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents is set to appear in court Wednesday.

The preliminary hearing for 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, of Gordon, is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Barron County Circuit Court.

Patterson is accused of fatally shooting 56-year-old James Closs and 46-year-old Denise Closs inside their Barron home on Oct. 15. He allegedly kidnapped Jayme and held her captive inside his residence for 88 days before she managed to escape on Jan. 10.

Patterson allegedly confessed to the crimes, telling investigators he targeted Jayme after seeing her get on a school bus. He reported that he went to the Closs residence with his father's 12-gauge shotgun, planning to kill any eyewitnesses to the abduction, according to a criminal complaint.

Wednesday's hearing will be the first for Patterson since his initial appearance, at which bail was set at $5 million. He remains in custody at the Polk County Jail.

Here's a look at the case and what to expect next:

What are the charges?

Patterson was formally charged Jan. 15 with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count each of kidnapping and armed burglary.

If convicted, he would face mandatory life sentences on each of the homicide counts, up to 40 years for kidnapping and 15 years for burglary.

What is a preliminary hearing?

The purpose of a preliminary hearing is for a judge to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the defendant to proceed to trial.

Under Wisconsin rules of criminal procedure, in-custody felony defendants are entitled to the hearing within 10 days. Patterson, however, waived that deadline at his initial appearance, agreeing to Wednesday's setting.

What happens at the hearing?

Prosecutors must show probable cause that Patterson committed the crimes with which he is charged.

Generally, that involves calling an investigator to testify to basic evidence collected in the case. Because there is a relatively low burden for the state, defendants often waive the evidentiary hearing.

What comes next?

If Barron County District Judge James Babler finds probable cause to support the charges, Patterson would be bound over for arraignment.

If not, the judge would dismiss the complaint.

Will Patterson enter a plea?

No. In Wisconsin, a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered at the time of arraignment.

Will Patterson face other charges?

If a defendant is bound over for arraignment, prosecutors are allowed to modify the charges when they file a document known as an "information."

As for any crimes committed in Douglas County, Patterson is not expected to face charges "in the immediate future." Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf cited multiple factors, including the Barron County charges and victim-related concerns, in announcing he does not anticipate bringing additional charges against Patterson.

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