Following Jayme Closs’ escape from the man alleged to have killed her parents before abducting her, kidnapping survivors are reaching out to share words of support and encouragement for the 13-year-old.
Closs went missing in October after police found her parents shot to death in their Wisconsin home. She managed to escape nearly three months later from a home just about an hour from where she used to live with her family. Jake Patterson, 21, has since been arrested in relation to the crimes.
Authorities have confirmed that Patterson did not know Closs or her family before committing the alleged crimes. Patterson told investigators that he decided that he wanted to abduct Closs after he saw her getting onto a school bus on his way to work one day.
Elizabeth Smart, a child safety advocate and kidnapping survivor, told People that Closs’ story reminded her of her own. Smart, now a 31-year-old married mother of three, was abducted from her family home in Utah at the age of 14 by a street preacher, Brian David Mitchell, who held Smart captive for nine months with the help of his wife, Wanda Barzee.
“It’s very similar to my case,” Smart said. “My captor saw me out shopping with my mom.”
Smart had words of encouragement for Closs.
“For Jayme right now, I know it’s so easy to feel like this has completely destroyed her life. She can still have a wonderful happy life.”
Smart told NBC News that during her abduction, she felt like “life had been stolen from me, all the dreams and aspirations had been stolen.”
“When I was rescued, I felt like all of a sudden all that had been given back, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of it, and I just hope and pray that Jayme feels the same way,” she said.
Lily Rose Lee, formerly known as Michelle Knight, one of three women Ariel Castro held captive in his Cleveland home for more than a decade before their escape, told People that she cried “tears of joy” after learning that Closs had been found safe and sound.
“I’m glad she’s safe and not in the arms of somebody going to hurt her. She doesn’t deserve it. Coming from my experience, I’m sure she was scared and panicking but happy she got away,” Lee said.
Lee was abducted in 2002 when she was 21 years old. She and two other women, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, were held against their will in Castro’s home and endured unimaginable horrors and repeated abuse until May 6, 2013, when Berry was able to escape with the 6-year-old child she’d given birth to during her imprisonment and call for help.
Since her return, Closs’ family has said that she hasn’t talked much about what happened during the time she was held captive, NBC News reports.
“When she's ready to talk she will. But we haven’t asked her anything yet,” her aunt Suzi Allard said.
Lee theorized to People that it’s likely that Closs has a lot to work through.
“Being such a young girl, she’s going to be afraid and ashamed to talk to anyone,” Lee said. “We want to be able to give her a safe environment so that she can talk about what happened.”
“Jayme, take time to heal and just know you’re not alone,” she said, addressing Closs directly. “As long as you have love and support, you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Jaycee Dugard, a woman who was abducted in 1991 when she was 11 years old and held captive for 18 years, reached out to Closs and her family as well, sending the teen her “heartfelt support and joy,” People reports.
“The road ahead will have many ups and downs,” she said. “Allow yourself to grieve and move forward. What happened will always be senseless but it does not have to define who you are forever.”
Dugard spent 18 years being held against her will by married couple Phillip and Nancy Garrido. She gave birth to two daughters who were 11 and 15 years old when she was able to escape the Garridos’ hold in 2009.
As for Patterson, he made his first court appearance on Monday, where a judge set his bail at $5 million cash and ordered him not to contact Closs. He faces a life sentence if convicted of the murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery charges he’s facing. He is scheduled to appear before a judge again on Feb. 6.
[Photo: Getty Images, Barron County Sheriff's Department]
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