An attorney representing former Barron kidnapping victim Jayme Closs said his client was doing well and “getting stronger every day” during a press conference at the Barron County Justice Center Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.
Officiated by Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, the press conference marked the occasion of the first anniversary since Jayme’s kidnapping and the murders of her parents, James and Denise Closs, on Oct. 14-15, 2018, at their rural Barron home.
Now age 14 and living with her aunt and uncle, Bob and Jennifer Smith, also of rural Barron, Jayme was represented at the press conference by Chris Gramstrup, an attorney from Superior, Wis.
Gramstrup, who is Jayme’s guardian ad litem, said his client “has had a busy summer, going hiking at several state parks and attending family weddings and birthday parties— including her own 14th birthday.
“Jayme is working hard on her emotional well being, and is trying to rebuild her life,” her lawyer added.
In her own words, during a statement read by Gramstrup, Jayme thanked everyone who has shown her kindness and concern. She said she “loves hanging out with my friends, and “is feeling stronger every day.”
Earlier during the press conference, Fitzgerald presented awards of appreciation to 10 individual officers, including those from his own department as well as the FBI and the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, who aided him during the 88 days Jayme was missing.
“Without people like this, cases don’t get solved,” Fitzgerald said. “And, again, while Jayme found us, many hours of work had to be done on this case to get the conviction.”
District Attorney Brian Wright said the first anniversary of the crime gives people “a chance to reflect on the outpouring of disbelief and emotion” that greeted the murder and kidnapping, and the sense of gratitude shown by the Barron area and others upon her escape.
Wright said his office had fielded calls from as far away as Germany and Australia, as Jayme’s absence caused international concern.
Robert Lowery, vice president for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said it was partly because of the continued media attention during Jayme’s 88-day absence that enabled her to get home safely.
Both Lowery and other officials said that once Jayme escaped, she was immediately recognized by a witness in the Douglas County subdivision where she was imprisoned.
That speedy recognition aided in Jayme’s escape and the arrest of her abductor, Lowery said. He praised the efforts of both law enforcement and the media to sustain awareness of the case throughout Jayme’s 88-day imprisonment.
“Kids come home when communities work collaboratively, he added.
The public needs to keep missing kids on a front burner, Lowery said.
Over the past five years, he said, statistics show a total of 5,000 children went missing across the country for at least six months. Of that number, 444 children were still missing after five years.
Lowery introduced reporters to Lesley and Michael Bushland, the sister and father of Spooner resident Sara Bushland, who disappeared after getting off a school bus in 1996, and is still missing.