Barron County (WQOW) – Friday marked five months to the day that Jim and Denise Closs of Barron were murdered and their 13-year-old daughter abducted.
A manhunt for Jayme Closs began right after she went missing on October 15, 2018. Thousands of volunteers scoured the countryside for any clues. But for months, there was still no sign of her. Then, 88 days after she was taken, it was Jayme who saved herself, escaping her captor, 21-year-old Jake Patterson. He’s now facing life in prison, as Jayme looks to find a new normal.
All of these events have taken a toll on the Closs family, and the Barron community in general. Friday night at the Barron High School, another step was taken in the healing process, as fellow survivor and child safety advocate Elizabeth Smart spoke to the community on how to move forward.
Smart shared her story, an experience similar to what happened to Jayme. In 2002, the then-14 year old Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City home. She was missing for nine months. But Smart didn’t just share her story, she used her story to help the Barron community move forward and to help Jayme find a way to her new normal.
“I have been so inspired the last few days that I have been here being able to meet with you and speak with you and see the kind of community you are,” Smart said to the crowd of hundreds. “And I find it inspiring to see so many of you here tonight in support of Jayme.”
Smart called Jayme a strong young woman and a survivor. She told the crowd that it’s important to give Jayme space to allow her to reclaim her life. Smart said each person in the community has a role in bringing that to fruition.
People from all across the region came to hear Smart speak. In fact, there were so many people, organizers had to bring out extra chairs. News 18 spoke with several community members after the event. They say they learned news ways to support Jayme.
“I thought it was very great,” said Robert Missling of Barron. “She made some great points and something that the community can follow forward with and giving [Jayme] space is what I take away as being very important.”
“Like Elizabeth said, let Jayme live her life and try to get back to normal,” said Julie Laguire of Rice Lake.
Smart said the community can show their support by writing Jayme a letter, or sending a message that she can read when she is ready. When addressing how the community can heal, Smart shared a message that her mother told her. She said the best punishment for the person that has done terrible things to you, is to be happy.
The man that prosecutors said is responsible for inflicting this pain, Jake Patterson, faces two counts of first degree intentional homicide, kidnapping and burglary with a dangerous weapon.