Jayme Closs, the Wisconsin teen who was kidnapped a year ago and held captive for 88 days before escaping from the man who murdered her parents, says she’s feeling “stronger every day,” according to a report.
“I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me,” the 14-year-old told 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!” she added in a statement.
Jake Patterson, 21, pleaded guilty in May to killing Closs’ parents, James and Denise, on Oct. 15, 2018, and then kidnapping the girl from the family’s home in rural Barron, Wisconsin, about 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis.
“Jayme continues to work very hard on her emotional well-being,” the girl’s aunt, Jen Smith, and family attorney Chris Gramstrup said in a statemen to ABC News. “She is moving forward and courageously reclaiming her life.”
She has taken day trips to hiking trails with friends and relatives, and has enjoyed celebrating weddings and birthdays with her family, they said.
“She has also been able to spend a good deal of time with her friends, just hanging out and being a typical teenager. Jayme’s incredible spirit and strength continue to inspire everyone around her,” Smith and Gramstrup added.
Patterson told police he decided Jayme “was the girl he was going to take” after he saw her boarding a school bus near her home.
After abducting her to his cabin near the isolated town of Gordon, some 60 miles from her home, Patterson created a space for her under his bed and put weights around it so she couldn’t escape, according to the complaint.
Authorities searched for Jayme for months and collected more than 3,500 tips before she made her daring escape on Jan. 10 while Patterson was away.
Jayme flagged down a woman who was walking a dog and Patterson was arrested minutes later. She is now living with an aunt and uncle.
“Jayme has had a very busy summer enjoying time with her family and friends. She has celebrated family weddings and birthdays, including her own,” the family said in a statement to ABC.
“She has also been able to spend a good deal of time with her friends, just hanging out and being a typical teenager,” they continued.
“Jayme continues to work very hard on her emotional well-being. She is moving forward and courageously reclaiming her life. Jayme’s incredible spirit and strength continue to inspire everyone around her. She is truly “#JaymeStrong.”
At Patterson’s sentencing, a statement read on behalf of Jayme said she escaped because she was “smarter.”
“I watched his routine and I took back my freedom,” she said. “I will always have my freedom and he will not. Jake Patterson can never take my courage. He thought he could control me, but he couldn’t.”
Meanwhile, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said he plans to take time Monday to thank investigators who worked tirelessly on the case and try to turn the anniversary of a “bad day” into something good, according to KARE 11.
The sheriff will talk about staying hopeful for other missing children.
A representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was scheduled to speak, as well as a family member from another missing child case.
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