BARRON, Wis. — This week marks a painful anniversary for the Closs family and the city of Barron, Wisconsin.
But on Monday Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald reminded residents of Jayme's home town and those who searched and prayed for her safe return that it is also a story of courage, resilience and hope.
It was Oct. 15, 2018 when then-13-year-old Jayme Closs was kidnapped by Jake Patterson after he forced his way into their rural Barron home and fatally shot her parents. Patterson held the teen for 88 days, until she escaped while he was away from the Town of Gordon residence where she was being confined.
Patterson pleaded guilty to the crimes and a judge sentenced him to two life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Monday Jayme released a brief statement that was read at a news conference by her guardian, attorney Chris Gramstrup. "I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me," Closs said in her statement. "I am very happy to be home and getting back to the activities that I enjoy. I love hanging out with all of my friends, and I feel stronger every day!"
Gramstrup shared that Jayme had a busy summer hiking state parks, spending quality time with her friends and aunts, and attending lots of weddings and birthday parties. She says the most enjoyable time was simply getting back into routine and spending time with friends. Gramstrup added that Jayme is working on her emotional well-being after a terrible ordeal.
Helping her each day, Gramstrup said, are two attributes Jayme got from her parents. Strength from her father Jim, who was a former athlete and a big, strong man. And a big heart from her mother Denise, who was known to be sweet and caring to everyone around her.
Sheriff Fitzgerald gathered reporters to give special recognition to his team for their work on the case. He shared that Jayme's is the longest running Amber Alert in Wisconsin state history at 88 days, and that her case generated the most evidence the state crime lab has ever seen. There are currently more than 32,000 reports in the case.
Fitzgerald also spoke about how Jayme's case teaches us to never lose hope for other other missing children. A representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will speak, as well as a family member from another missing child case.
To learn more about the Jayme Closs case, download KARE 11's podcast, 88 Days: The Jayme Closs Story. Host Lou Raguse takes you through the investigation, and interviews family members who held onto hope that Jayme would be found alive, all while grieving the loss of James and Denise. You can download the podcast for free.