The family of Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old Wisconsin girl who was found alive three months after her parents were killed, is commending the teen's bravery and fighting spirit in the face of her harrowing ordeal.
"The thing I wanted to express to her immediately, and we all do, is the pride we have in her for doing this," her aunt Lynn Closs told CBS This Morning. "For getting out. For making it. For the power that she has. You know, I mean, that she took the power away from this man. That she did this. I mean it's just incredible. I mean the strength that this little girl has, and the pride that we have in her for it, I mean that's instantly what I thought."
After her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their rural Wisconsin home near Barron, Jayme went missing for 88 days, prompting a massive search, national attention, and a $50,000 reward for information.
Last week, Jayme escaped from a house located in a remote area outside Gordon, Wisconsin, and was found by a woman walking her dog.
Authorities soon arrested 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, who is being held on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. Patterson is due to appear in the Barron County Circuit Court on Monday afternoon where he is expected to be formally charged.
On Thursday afternoon, Jayme managed to escape Patterson's cabin while he was out of the house. She soon spotted former social worker Jeanne Nutter walking her dog. Patterson's property touches the back of the land that Nutter's cabin is located on, Nutter told CBS This Morning.
Nutter said that she was at the end of her driveway when she saw the "distressed" young woman about 10 or 12 feet away from her who told her, "I need help."
Nutter knew the girl was in trouble because she was dressed only in a sweatshirt, black leggings, and slippers in 19-degree weather.
"She just sort of fell into me and said, 'I'm Jayme,' and I said I know," Nutter said. "I recognized her right away because her pictures are everywhere."
Nutter said that she decided not to take Jayme to her own house because it was too close to where Jayme told her the alleged perpetrator's cabin was.
Nutter said that her training and experience with Child Protective Services had taught her that she should get Jayme to safety first.
"I asked her, first of all, 'Where did you come from?' And she told me. I said, 'Is he home?' And she said, 'No.' I said, 'Is he in a car?' And she said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'What color is it?' Because if we ran into the car, I wanted to have some other plan in my head," Nutter said.
So Nutter took her to the house of a nearby neighbor, Kristin Kasinskas, who called 911. Kasinskas told the Associated Press that Jayme told her that Patterson "killed my parents and took me."
Jayme was medically cleared and reunited with her aunt and the rest of her family.
"It's such an overwhelming, amazing happy ending to such a horrible beginning," Lynn Closs told CBS This Morning.
"I have to pinch myself," Jayme's aunt Sue Allard said. "I woke up this morning and finally, I didn't have that pit in the bottom of my stomach anymore."
Allard said that Jayme is "doing pretty well" and has been "smiling, laughing, going through things in her room."
The family said that they're making sure that Jayme feels safe and they're not asking her any questions about what happened during her 88-day ordeal.
"In due time," Allard said. "We have to take little steps. Jayme, when she's ready to talk, she will."
Lynn Closs said that that they're letting Jayme call the shots.
"If she wants to be happy, let her be happy. If she wants to be sad, let her be sad. She wants to be silly, let her be silly..." her aunt said.
Family members who knew the 13-year-old as shy, loving girl are amazed by her bravery and determination to survive.
"This was a very shy, quiet girl, who was the most loving girl," a close family friend, Jennifer Halvorson, told the Today show. "She became a fighter. She's brave, she's strong, she overcame tremendous odds."
"We don't know what she went through," Lynn Closs said. "But to survive it and to get out of it, and to beat him at his own game and to survive and get out of there, I mean wow!"
Patterson's public defenders Richard Jones and Charles Glynn told reporters on Sunday that while they were going to protect their client's interests, they understood the pain of the community.
"We have a job to do in terms of representing our client and protecting his rights and interests, but we also understand the pain and the emotion that has been generated within this community," Jones said. "There has to be healing before people can move forward."
Patterson is currently being held in a single cell at the Barron County jail.
Glynn said Patterson's feelings were "consistent with what you would believe of someone who is involved with these allegations."
"This is a tragic situation from every perspective," Glynn said. "A lot of heavy hearts, a lot of thoughts and prayers going around. You’ve seen how people have come together the last few months. There’s going to be a whole lot of healing that needs to go on in this community from every perspective, and we have all the faith in the world that will take place."