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Sheriff: Jayme Closs taught us to 'never give up hope'

"Thank you to that 13-year-old girl Jayme, who led us with her strength and the will to not give up," said Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald.

BARRON, Wis — The sheriff who spent 88 days searching for Jayme Closs gave all credit to the missing teen herself on the day her kidnapper was sentenced to prison.

"Thank you will never be enough," Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said at a news conference after a judge sentenced Jake Patterson to life without parole.

Fitzgerald went through a list of the law enforcement agencies and members of the public who helped to search for Jayme, after Patterson kidnapped her on Oct. 15, 2018, and murdered her parents, James and Denise Closs. But most of Fitzgerald's praise was for one person.

"Thank you to that 13-year-old girl Jayme, who led us with her strength and the will to not give up," Fitzgerald said on Friday in the Barron County courthouse.

RELATED: From missing to found alive: A timeline of the Jayme Closs case

"We can learn from this 13-year-old girl to never give up hope, no matter how bad a day you have," Fitzgerald said. "There's always people that care about you. So never give up hope. From all of our deputies and myself, thank you."

Listen to Jayme's statement being read in court below or click here.

Jayme's disappearance sparked a nationwide search, but it was Jayme who found her own way out on Jan. 10, 2019. When her kidnapper said he would be gone for a few hours, she pushed her way out from under the bed where he kept her surrounded by barriers, took a pair of his shoes, and walked away from captivity to find help.

RELATED: Jayme Closs found alive: 'It's what we've prayed for'

The man who admitted to kidnapping Jayme and killing her parents, Jake Patterson, received the maximum sentence on Friday. The judge handed down two life sentences without parole for the murders of James and Denise Closs, and 40 years in prison for Jayme's kidnapping, all to be served consecutively.

RELATED: Complaint: Patterson chose Jayme Closs at random after seeing her get on bus

"There are some things that Jake Patterson can never take from me," Jayme wrote in a statement that was read to the court on Friday. "He can't take my freedom. He thought that he could own me but he was wrong. I was smarter. I watched his routine and I took back my freedom. I will always have my freedom and he will not."

The sheriff also took time Friday to thank the community and all who didn't give up on finding Jayme, including her family.

"Your smile is now contagious across the world," Fitzgerald said to Jayme.

RELATED: Jayme Closs attends benefit, receives national award

Jayme did not attend the sentencing or speak in person on Friday.

"I can tell you she has made a great deal of progress," her aunt, Jennifer Smith, said. "Jayme will likely have more to say in the future."

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