2 years after she fled her captor, Jayme Closs is dancing again, her aunt says

Jayme Closs (R)  is surrounded by loved ones, doing well and taking life day by day, her aunt said -- a far cry from fighting for her life just two years ago.

(Family of Jayme Closs)

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CNN — Today, Jayme Closs is surrounded by loved ones, doing well and taking life day by day, her aunt said — a far cry from fighting for her life just two years ago.

Then 13 years old, Jayme escaped the home of the man who had killed her parents and abducted her for 87 days. Wearing only her pajamas and her captor's sneakers on the wrong feet, she trudged through the Wisconsin winter until she found help in the arms of his neighbors.

At the sentencing of her captor, Jayme said, "I used to love to go out with my friends. I love to go to school. I love to dance. He took all of those things away from me, too. It's too hard for me to go out in public."

Now she is dancing again and enjoying school activities as much as she can given the COVID-19 pandemic, her aunt and guardian Jennifer Naiberg Smith said in a statement Monday.

Reflecting on Jayme's escape to freedom on Jan. 10, 2018, Smith said she is thankful for those neighbors, the law enforcement who fought for justice, the world that kept its attention on finding her — and, most importantly, for Jayme's bravery.

"We always want to say and remind others never take life for granted," Smith said. "You never know what tomorrow will bring. Always remember to take the time to tell your loved ones you love them."

Dragged from her home to the trunk of a car

Jayme was asleep in her bedroom on Oct. 15, 2018, when she woke up to her dog Molly barking. She rushed to get her parents when she saw an unfamiliar Taurus in her family's driveway with the headlights off.

At the time, none of them knew that the driver had been there before. Jake Patterson, a 21-year-old man who would eventually face two life sentences, had seen Closs by chance as he drove by her school bus and had already been to their home twice to plan her abduction.

While her father James went to the door with a flashlight, Jayme and her mother Denise hid in the tub of a bathroom barricaded with a cabinet drawer. Jayme cowered as she heard the shot that killed her father. Her mother called 911.

All the dispatcher could hear when the call came in around 12:53 a.m. was "a lot of yelling."

Patterson, who had shaved his head and face so as to avoid leaving DNA, burst into the bathroom to find Jayme and her mother. After shooting her mother dead, he dragged the duct-tape bound teen to the trunk of his car.

Patterson sped off, yielding for squad cars that were on their way to the Closs home, a deputy said.

Stuck under a twin bed for months

Volunteers and police searched northern Wisconsin for three months. Jayme's photo was splashed across posters and in total $50,000 was offered for information on her.

All the while, she was 70 miles away in Patterson's Gordon home. Her captor forced her to stay under his twin-sized bed, where she sometimes remained for as long as 12 hours, with no food, water or access to the bathroom.

He would turn up the bedroom radio to muffle her movements when his father came to visit, and he would strike fear into Jayme by yelling and hitting the walls, warning that "bad things would happen to her if she tried" to come out.

Two weeks after the kidnapping, Patterson told detectives he believed he had gotten away with his crimes.

Jayme escapes

But then on January 10, he told Jayme he was going to be out for a few hours. Once he was gone, she shoved away the bins and weights that barricaded her under the bed, crawled out, got out the front door and stepped into the snow.

A woman walking her dog saw the girl, who said she needed help.

"I'm lost and I don't' know where I am and I need help," the teen said. "I'm Jayme."

The woman hustled her to the nearest home where they called 911.

Patterson returned to the area and was arrested shortly afterward. Prosecutors said he confessed in detail during an interview after his arrest.

He received one life sentence each for the murders of James and Denise Closs and was given a 40-year sentence for the kidnapping, including 25 years in prison and 15 years on parole.

Jayme had a chance to read a statement before his sentencing, in which she said he should be locked up forever.

"Jake Patterson took a lot of things that I love away from me. It makes me the most sad that he took away my mom and my dad," she said.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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Madeline Holcombe


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