Two years after escaping from a ramshackle house where she had been held prisoner, teenager Jayme Closs is living a life filled with love, dancing and light, her family said.
Now 15, "Jayme is doing good," her aunt and legal guardian Jennifer Naiberg Smith said in a Facebook post over the weekend.
"We take life day by day. She is enjoying dance, school activities and many other things as much as is possible in regards to now dealing with the COVID restrictions. She is surrounded by lots of loved ones," her aunt said.
On Jan. 10, 2019, Closs ran from a Wisconsin house where she had been held for nearly three months by Jake Patterson, who shot her parents to death in a home invasion and then dragged the girl, bound in duct tape, to his car and drove north to his cabin. He forced Closs under his bed, then piled bins and weights on top to keep her there.
Patterson pleaded guilty to homicide and kidnapping charges in December 2019 and was sentenced to life in prison.
The girl escaped wearing only pajamas and her captor's shoes on the wrong feet. She trudged through snow and bitter cold and found a woman walking her dog. The neighbor led her to safety and summoned authorities.
Patterson had plotted to snatch the child after watching her board a school bus in October 2018. Days later, at about 1 a.m. on Oct. 15, he shot the Closses and took their daughter.
Her aunt's weekend message expressed gratitude to three people who helped Closs on the day she escaped. Smith thanked them "for all being in the right place at the right time and keeping Jayme safe." They are Jeanne Nutter, the woman walking her dog, and Kristin and Peter Kasinskas, who lived at the house where Nutter brought Jayme that day.
Smith also urged people to take stock of their lives during these troubled times, and to appreciate what they have.
"We always want to say and remind others (to) never take life for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Always remember to take the time to tell your loved ones you love them."