Jayme Closs Had Christmas Presents Waiting for Her at Home: 'I Never Gave Up,' Says Aunt
Jayme Closs was missing for almost three months, but her aunt Jennifer Smith always believed the teen would make it back to her family
Jayme Closs was missing for almost three months after being abducted by a 21-year-old man who police say fatally shot her parents, but the Wisconsin teen’s family never gave up hope that Jayme was still alive.
In an interview with 48 Hours as part of the CBS program’s “Jayme Closs Comes Home” special on Saturday, the 13-year-old girl’s aunt Jennifer Smith opened up about the deep pain she felt when she learned her niece had gone missing.
“My heart was shattered. Left a hole in our heart and we just wanted to find her,” Smith remarked. “I just had to hope that she was alive out there somewhere.”
Despite the months that went by, Smith — who is Jayme’s late mother Denise’s sister and will act as the teen’s legal guardian — had a feeling that Jayme would make it out of the nightmare alive.
“I knew she was close and I never gave up that hope,” she said.
And even though Christmas came and went without any signs of Jayme, Smith insisted on keeping the teen’s presents under the tree. “I said these presents are going to sit right here and wait for Jayme to come home,” Smith recalled.
“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!!” she wrote, adding that her “beloved sister” and brother-in-law can rest in peace knowing that their daughter “is safe.”
“We will make sure forever,” she added.
PEOPLE has obtained a photograph, which was taken on Saturday, of Smith and Jayme smiling together. Alongside the image, Smith wrote, “Love her so much!!!! What a glorious day !!”
During the 48 Hours special, Kristin Kasinskas — who took Jayme in after the teen was rescued, about 70 miles north of her hometown, by a woman out on a walk with her dog — revealed what Jayme told them about her experience while they were waiting for the police.
“She told us that she was very well-hidden,” Kasinskas, who lives with her husband Peter close to where Jayme was found, explained. “She said that other people would come to the house but she would have to be hidden. I don’t know how he kept her so under wraps for long.”
“It just kills me that she was just four doors down and we didn’t know,” Kasinskas added. “Not that we would have ever known or could have ever known, but it kills me that she was that close.”
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When Jayme was reunited with her family on Friday, she was also reunited with her beloved dog, Molly.
Jennifer Halvorson, who has become close friends with Jayme’s aunts, told PEOPLE on Friday that the teen “is glad to have her dog back and get settled.”
A photo obtained by PEOPLE shows Jayme smiling in her bedroom while accompanied by her dog Molly and Smith’s dog. The room has been decorated with blue butterflies.
Family friend Michelle Saffert tells PEOPLE that Jayme “looks good” after her time with loved ones.
“She really is doing well,” Saffert adds, remarking how nice it is to see Jayme smiling after all that she’s been through. “I’m glad she feels safe again.”
Ron Fladten, mayor of Jayme’s hometown of Barron, shares with PEOPLE how the entire town has been overjoyed by Jayme’s return.
“It’s mind-blowing. When we first found out, it kind of sent everybody into a tailspin. It’s hard to go through 88 days of a cloud hanging over your community and all of a sudden it’s reversed. We’re very happy in Barron,” he says.
“Everybody I meet and talk to are very happy,” Fladten adds. “They’re very grateful that Jayme has come back to us alive and we have high hopes for her recovery and adjustment back into school. Hopefully, she’ll have a good future.
Police announced on Friday that they’d arrested 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, of Gordon, and charged him with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.
While not much is known about Patterson, during the 48 Hours special, it was revealed that he was voted the quietest person in his high school class.
Patterson is being represented by state public defenders Charles Glynn and Richard Jones.
“This is a very tragic situation,” the two lawyers said in a joint statement, according to local media reports. “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.
Patterson is currently in the Barron County Jail and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to enter a plea.