BARRON, Wis. — The Wisconsin girl whose parents were fatally shot before she was kidnapped and held captive for 88 days before escaping from her abductor said she's feeling stronger every day and is thankful for the kindness and concern from people all over the country in the year after the crime.
Jayme Closs issued a statement Monday, Oct. 14, a day before the one-year anniversary of the fatal shootings and abduction at her home near Barron in northwest Wisconsin. Closs said she is getting back to the activities she enjoys and loves hanging out with her friends.
The statement was read by family attorney Chris Gramstrup at a news conference at the Barron County Sheriff's Department.
"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."
"When I see her around the community and see a smile on her face, it's the greatest feeling in the world," said Barron County Sheriff Christopher Fitzgerald.
Grampstrup says Jayme, who has celebrated her 14th birthday, 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.
"I would like to take this time to remember James and Denise Closs who gave their lives protecting their daughter," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald honored the investigators in his department with an award that said, "Never give up hope."
"Again while Jayme found us, many hours had to be done to get the conviction," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said the case lasted seven months from start to finish and was the longest-running Amber Alert in Wisconsin history. He said 700 pieces of evidence were collected, and nearly 32,000 reports written.
Officials also took the opportunity to highlight the 40 other children still missing in Wisconsin, like Alexis Patterson, missing since 2002 from Milwaukee, and Sara Bushland, missing since 1996 from Spooner.
"So many other missing children do not make the news," said Robert Lowery, VP of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"Someone out there knows something," said Mike Bushland, Sara's father. "We need them to step up and give us a helping hand."
Fitzgerald said the outcome of the Jayme Closs case inspired a new mission in his department to spread awareness about the 40 children still missing.
According to the criminal complaint in the Jayme Closs case, the then-21-year-old Patterson 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 said.
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 (97 kilometers) 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 facemask — 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.