Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old girl who escaped after being kidnapped and held captive for 88 days after the killing of her parents last October, was honored for her bravery by Wisconsin lawmakers.
Jayme received a “hometown hero” award Wednesday from from the Wisconsin State Assembly during a ceremony in the state capitol in Madison. She did not speak, but Jennifer Smith, her aunt and guardian, thanked the lawmakers on her behalf and said, “Jayme is enjoying her day here. More than you can imagine.”
Rep. Romaine Quinn, who represents Jayme’s hometown of Barron, addressed the teen during the ceremony: “Jayme, your strength, your resolve and your bravery is beyond incredible. You are truly an inspiration and a bright light in a time of sadness.”
Quinn added, “You taught us an important lesson: No matter how grave your situation, no matter how dark your days become and no matter how impossible your circumstances may seem, there is always hope.”
Jayme was held captive in a cabin in Gordon, Wisconsin, for nearly three months after her parents, Denise, 46, and James, 56, were fatally shot in their Barron home, about 70 miles from Gordon, last October 15.
Their killer, Jake Thomas Patterson, pleaded guilty in March to two intentional homicide charges as well as a kidnapping charge. Patterson will be sentenced later in May. The intentional homicide charges carry a life sentence as part of his plea agreement.
The criminal complaint against Patterson stated he targeted Jayme, whom he did not know, after he spotted her getting on a school bus. It stated he made two attempts to kidnap her prior to October 15, but backed off until his third attempt, when he shot Jayme’s father at the front door, then confronted Jayme and her mother hiding in a bathroom, where he shot the mother and bound the teen with tape before dragging her into the trunk of his vehicle.
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At his Gordon cabin, according to the complaint, Patterson sometimes ordered Jayme under the bed for as long as 12 hours at a time — depriving her of food, water or bathroom breaks. Around Christmastime, Patterson went away to visit his grandparents while the girl hid under the bed, afraid to move.
On Jan. 10, the day Jayme escaped, Patterson had left her alone with a warning to stay under the bed, the criminal complaint stated. But after Patterson left, Jayme fled the cabin and encountered a woman out walking her dog, who then raced Jayme to a neighbor’s home from which police were called.
Patterson, then 21, was arrested shortly after.
After her escape, Jayme received widespread plaudits for her bravery.
Jodie Arnold, who is first cousins with Jayme’s late mother Denise, told PEOPLE at the time, “Jayme is a complete badass. As far as I’m concerned, she saved herself.
Recalling how the 13-year-old was a “very quiet, passive girl” on the surface, Arnold credited Jayme’s “perseverance and will to live” for her freedom.
“I was really afraid that if she was being kept captive that it would be really hard for her to leave because you’re afraid — and you get what, one chance to do something like that,” Arnold said. “For her to have that kind of will to live through an ordeal like this. I have to think that there will be a way for her to have a satisfying life with her family and with herself in the future.”
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