(ABC) — One year after Jayme Closs was kidnapped as a 13-year-old and held for months by a man who murdered her parents, the teenager says she’s feeling “stronger every day.”
“I really want to thank everyone for all the kindness and concern that people all over the country have shown me,” Closs said in an exclusive statement to ABC News. “I am very happy to be home and getting back to the activities that I enjoy. I love hanging out with all of my friends, and I feel stronger every day!”
Jake Patterson pleaded guilty earlier this year to killing Closs’ parents on Oct. 15, 2018, and then kidnapping the teen from the family’s rural Barron, Wisconsin, home.
Closs was held captive at 21-year-old Patterson’s home for 88 days until she escaped in January.
“Jayme continues to work very hard on her emotional well-being,” the teen’s aunt, Jen Smith, and their family attorney, Chris Gramstrup, said in a statement. “She is moving forward and courageously reclaiming her life.”
The 14-year-old has taken day trips to hiking trails with her friends and her aunts, and has enjoyed celebrating weddings and birthdays with her family, the statement said.
“She has also been able to spend a good deal of time with her friends, just hanging out and being a typical teenager,” said Smith and Gramstrup. “Jayme’s incredible spirit and strength continue to inspire everyone around her.”
In May Patterson was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Patterson confessed to investigators that he targeted Closs after seeing her board a school bus, according to a criminal complaint.
After Patterson fled with the girl to his home, he created a space for her under his bed. When he would leave the house, he would put barbells and free weights around the bed so she couldn’t escape, according to the complaint.
Closs said she escaped because “I was smarter.”
“I watched his routine and I took back my freedom,” Closs said through a statement read at sentencing on her behalf. “I will always have my freedom and he will not. Jake Patterson can never take my courage. He thought he could control me, but he couldn’t.”
On Monday morning, Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald will address the media – and once again thank the key stakeholders in the search and ultimate rescue of Closs.
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