Jayme Closs’ life changed forever on a dark October night last year when a 21-year-old gunman stormed into her house in quiet Barron, Wisconsin, killed her parents and sped off with the terrified teen in his trunk.
After 88 days in captivity, the courageous middle schooler – just 13 at the time – became the heroine of her own story when she escaped her kidnapper’s cabin in the frigid January cold.
Jake Patterson of Gordon pleaded guilty to killing Jayme’s parents, Denise Closs, 46, and James Closs, 56, and kidnapping Jayme. In May he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Now living with her aunt and uncle, Closs recently told ABC News she is feeling “stronger” all the time.
“I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me,” Closs said in an exclusive statement to ABC News. “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!”
At a press conference Monday, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said, “Jayme taught us courage, resilience and hope,” local ABC affiliate WQOW reports.
“We are all with her in whatever she needs in the future,” he said.
Closs family attorney Chris Gramstrup gave an update on how Jayme is doing, saying she had “an extremely busy summer, a good summer.”
“She spent a lot of time with her aunts and friends, hiking through state parks” and taking day trips, Gramstrup said.
“She’s been very busy,” he noted. “She’s got a big family and had a lot of weddings and birthdays she enjoyed celebrating with family, including a big celebration for her birthday.”
Calling Jayme “very social,” he said, “Probably the most enjoyable time Jayme has had is just getting back into a routine and really enjoying and spending time with her friends.”
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“She continues to work very hard on her emotional well-being. She is moving forward and courageously reclaiming her life.”
After reading the statement she released over the weekend saying she is feeling stronger every day, he said, “It’s entirely accurate.”
Gramstrup also noted the strength and compassion of Jayme’s late parents, describing James Closs as “extremely strong” and Denise Closs as having “a huge amount of love and caring and kindness for everyone around her.”
“Jayme has both those qualities that she’s gotten from her parents. She has the strength and she’s got the heart,” Gramstrup said.
‘Let’s Bring Some More Kids Home’
The sheriff held Monday’s press conference to remind the public about the thousands of other kids and teens who remain missing.
“Let’s bring some more kids home,” he said, local station KTIV reports.
Robert Lowery of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children showed photographs of 40 missing children who “still need our help,” he said.
“Jayme was just one of dozens of children missing in Wisconsin, and they’re still missing,” Lowery said. “We should never stop looking for these kids.”
“It’s success stories like Jayme Closs that motivate us every day. Never give up, never stop searching,” Lowery said.