The Voice Runner-Up, Who Dedicated Song to Once-Missing Jayme Closs, Reacts to Her Homecoming
In November, about a month following the disappearance of teenager Jayme Closs after her parents were killed, The Voice‘s season 15 runner-up Chris Kroeze performed a special rendition of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” on the show — dedicating it to Jayme and her hometown of Barron, Wisconsin.
Kroeze, a native of Baron who still lives there, tells PEOPLE he wanted to keep Jayme’s name in the news after media coverage of her Oct. 15 disappearance had waned.
“The headlines were no longer showing that story,” Kroeze, 27, says. “People were asking the sheriff’s office how to help. They kept saying, ‘Do everything you can do to get the word out there.’ ”
Last Thursday, Kroeze and the rest of the community were overjoyed when Jayme turned up alive nearly three months after being abducted. She received a special homecoming message from Kroeze.
“Our family and community couldn’t be more excited and thankful that the MANY prayers for Jayme have been answered and that she has been found and is coming home! She couldn’t be coming home to a more supportive community!” Kroeze wrote on Facebook Friday.
Kroeze tells PEOPLE that in using his platform to honor Jayme, he was only doing what any local resident would have done.
“Everybody in the community did everything they could. I just happened to have some powerful tools available to me at the time,” he says. “Anyone else, you can pick anybody’s name out of the hat from the whole community and anybody would have done the same exact thing I did.”
The suspect in the kidnapping and killings is 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, who was arrested last Thursday. He is charged with two counts of first-degree homicide, one count of kidnapping and one count of armed burglary, according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE.
Authorities have alleged that Jayme was Patterson’s only “target,” and that abducting her was his motive for the crime.
The night she was abducted, Jayme’s parents, Denise, 46, and James Closs, 56, were found dead in their home in Barron. Jayme was subsequently declared “missing and endangered,” an AMBER Alert was issued for her and thousands of people joined investigators in their search for her.
Kroeze tells PEOPLE: “I’ve got young kids at home. And everybody in the community was feeling the same thing. What the heck? This kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore.”
Diane Tremblay, superintendent of Barron Area School District, says the area is grateful for Kroeze’s efforts.
“Chris Kroeze is a selfless, beautiful, talented musician who has been there for us all along the way flying back and forth from Los Angeles,” she says. “That was outstanding.”
Then on Jan. 10, Jayme was rescued after escaping her alleged captor and approached a woman with a dog for help. The woman, named Jeanne Nutter, brought Jayme to the nearby front door of Kristin and Peter Kasinskas, who opened their front door around 4 p.m. to the sound of frantic knocking from a female neighbor. “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!” the woman said, the pair recalled to the Star Tribune.
A family friend told PEOPLE on Friday that Jayme is “glad” to be reunited with her dog, Molly.
“She is so glad to be home. And she is obviously thrilled to have her dog. Her dog was everything to her,” said Jennifer Halvorson, who has become close friends with Jayme’s aunts and is one of the administrators of the Facebook group Healing for Jayme Closs.
Aunt Jennifer Smith, who is Jayme’s mother Denise’s sister, will act as the teen’s legal guardian.
“Jayme had a pretty good night sleep,” she wrote. “It was great to know she was next to me all night what a great feeling to have her home.” “As a family we will get through all of the healing process Jayme has. It will be a long road but we are family strong and we love this little girl so much!! We will do anything and everything!!” she wrote, adding that her “beloved sister” and brother-in-law “can rest at peace” knowing their daughter will be looked after and kept safe for the rest of her life.
Patterson is due in court Monday to enter a plea. His public defenders, Charles Glynn and Richard Jones, issued a joint statement on the allegations, according to local media reports.
“This is a very tragic situation,” reads the statement. “There is a substantial amount of information, interest, and emotion involved in this case. Mr. Patterson’s legal team will be relying on the integrity of our judicial system to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and respected.”
PEOPLE has reached out to the two lawyers for additional comment.