Barron community relieved by Jake Patterson's guilty plea

The small community of Barron, Wisconsin is breathing a sigh of relief, after a guilty plea signals a near end to criminal proceedings in the Jayme Closs case.

Jayme’s close family and friends watched from the courtroom Wednesday as suspect Jake Patterson pleaded guilty on all counts. While the family declined to comment afterward, many in the community consider this the end of a nightmare.

“It’s over,” said Barron Area Schools Superintendent Diane Tremblay. “My hope and prayer is that this helps everybody move forward and we’re ready.”

Residents of Barron have been consumed by the case since Jayme first went missing on October 15, 2018. With the court proceedings coming to a close, they say life can get back to ‘normal’ and Jayme can hopefully find peace.

“I mean everyone is happy that it’s not going to go to trial because it would have been a lot more strain on the family,” said Bill Balts.

Balts works with Jayme’s uncle, Bob Smith. Smith and his wife Jennifer have been Jayme’s guardians since she returned home.

“Him [Bob] and Jennifer’s lives have changed completely,” said Balts. “My focus is to help them as much as I can.”

Balts is one of many community members organizing a fundraiser for the family on May 4.

“I’ve encouraged him to not work so much and spend time with Jayme. So financially we just wanted to help him out,” said Balts. “We’re not expecting to pay their mortgage off but we just want to bridge the gap.”

The event will take place at the Barron High School gymnasium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will include a spaghetti feed, raffle, live music and auction.

For more information about the event, or to donate, contact Bill Balts at (715) 931-7940 or email