BARRON — The Wisconsin girl whose parents were fatally shot before she was kidnapped and held captive for 88 days, then escaped from her abductor, said she’s feeling “stronger every day” and is thankful for the kindness expressed to her from people across the country in the year after the crime.
Jayme Closs, now 14, issued a statement Monday, a day before the one-year anniversary of the fatal shootings and abduction at her home near Barron in northwest Wisconsin.
Closs said she wanted to “thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me. I’m very happy to be home and getting back to the activity that I enjoy. I love hanging out with all my friends, and I feel stronger every day.”
The statement was read by family attorney Chris Gramstrup at a news conference at the Barron County Sheriff’s Department.
Over the summer, Closs spent a lot of time with her family and friends, hiking through state parks and taking other day trips, celebrating family weddings and birthdays including her own, and getting back into a routine with her friends, Gramstrup said.
“She continues to work very, very hard on her emotional well-being,” Gramstrup said. “She’s moving forward courageously and reclaiming her life. Her incredible spirit and strength continues to inspire everyone around her.”
Gramstrup says Jayme inherited her strength and soft heart from her father and mother. James and Denise Closs were killed at their home Oct. 15, 2018, by Jake Patterson, who abducted Jayme.
According to a criminal complaint, Patterson, who was 21 at the time, told investigators he knew Jayme “was the girl he was going to take” after he saw her getting on a school bus near her home. He made two aborted trips to the family’s home before carrying out the attack in which he killed Jayme’s mother in front of her, the complaint states.
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In the days that followed, thousands of people volunteered to search for Jayme. Patterson hid Jayme in a remote cabin in Gordon, about 60 miles north of Barron, before she escaped and got help from a woman walking her dog.
Jayme told police that on the night she was abducted, she awoke to her dog’s barking, then woke her parents as a car came up the driveway. Her father went to the front door as Jayme and her mother hid in a bathtub, according to the complaint. Jayme told police she heard a gunshot and knew her dad had been killed.
Patterson — dressed in black and wearing a face mask — broke down the bathroom door, according to the complaint. He taped Jayme’s mouth, hands and ankles before pulling her out of the bathtub and shooting her mother in the head, the complaint said.
He dragged Jayme outside, threw her in the trunk of his car and drove off, according to the complaint.
When Patterson left the cabin or had friends over, he sealed her under the bed with tote boxes and weights so she couldn’t crawl out, sometimes for hours, according to the complaint. When his father visited, Patterson told investigators he turned up the radio to conceal any noise she might make.
She escaped Jan. 10 when Patterson was away.
Patterson is serving life in prison with no chance of parole.
At the news conference, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald recognized 10 leaders in the investigation with small trophies depicting a law enforcement officer and a small child. Law enforcement officers poured over 32,000 reports in the case and more than 700 pieces of evidence, Fitzgerald said, and they never gave up hope of finding Jayme.
He said he hopes that the positive energy coming off Jayme’s resilience and courage can be used to help find other missing children.
“As adults in this world we need to make sure that kids out there know that no matter what the circumstances are, someone out there cares about them. We care about them,” Fitzgerald said. “I saw and felt the power of good, and we need to take that good and do so much more with it.”