Jayme Closs Smiles with Her Aunt and Her Dog in First Photo After Escaping Kidnapping
PEOPLE has obtained the first photo of the 13-year-old with her aunt Jennifer Smith and her dog Molly. Smith, who is Jayme’s mother Denise’s sister, will act as the teen’s legal guardian.
The picture, in which Jayme can be seen smiling, is the first time the public has seen her since news of her being found.
Jayme had been missing after vanishing on Oct. 15 — the same night her parents, Denise, 46, and James Closs, 56, were found dead in their home in Barron, Wisconsin, nearly 70 miles south of Gordon. She had been declared “missing and endangered,” an AMBER Alert was issued for her and thousands of people joined investigators in their search for her.
Jayme was rescued on Thursday afternoon after escaping her alleged captor and approaching 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.
Jennifer Havorson, who has become close friends with Jayme’s aunts, tells PEOPLE 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,” says Havorson, who is one of the administrators of the Facebook group called Light the Way Home for Jayme.
“She wanted a dog forever. She had begged and begged [her mother] Denise to get a dog. And finally, Denise caved. That dog was super important to her,” Havorson shares.
“She’s glad to have her dog back and get settled. She’s very close to her two aunts, Jennifer and Sue. Jennifer babysat for her all the time in her daycare that she ran. And they had daily contact. Her aunts were almost second moms,” she adds.
Also on Friday, a close friend of Smith told PEOPLE she is “beyond ecstatic” about Jayme’s homecoming.
“It’s so exciting,” Michelle Saffert, 45, said. “Jennifer is excited — beyond ecstatic. We have screamed and cried and screamed and cried some more. This community has just…the endless thing that this community has done, to support this family — vigils of prayer and tree lightings and donated reward money and selling of bracelets and lanterns and some lady paints rocks and paints Jayme’s face on them and leaves them around parks.”
Jayme’s second cousin, Jodie Arnold, also called her a “complete badass,” telling PEOPLE on Friday, “As far as I’m concerned she saved herself,” and credits Jayme’s “perseverance and will to live” for her freedom.
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On Friday, police announced 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.
Patterson is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to enter a plea. It was unclear if he had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.