The first photo released of Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old Wisconsin girl found alive three months after her parents were murdered, shows her smiling next to her aunt and dog.
On Thursday afternoon Closs had approached a dog walker in Barron, Wisconsin, identifying herself as the missing teenager. Within hours, Closs was reunited with her own beloved dog, Molly, and her aunt Jennifer Smith.
Smith posted the photo of the three to social media on Friday evening.
“She is so glad to be home. And she is obviously thrilled to have her dog. Her dog was everything to her,” Jennifer Havorson, a friend of Smith’s, told People magazine. Havorson had been running the Facebook group 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.”
Closs had been missing since October, when her parents. James and Denise, were found shot dead in their rural Wisconsin home.
A woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told the Star Tribune she was walking her dog on Thursday in Barron when Closs approached her. The woman rushed to a nearby house, home of Peter and Kirstin Kasinskas, telling them: “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!”
Kristin Kasinskas told the Associated Press that Closs told her that a man had “killed my parents and took me.”
Shortly after police arrived, a 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson was arrested nearby on suspicion of kidnapping and homicide charges.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters Patterson “targeted” Jayme and that he killed her parents during the abduction.
Closs was medically cleared and reunited with her family on Friday. Smith, sister of Closs’s mother Denise, is now her legal guardian.
“Jayme is the hero in this case, there’s no question about it,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s amazing, the will of that 13-year-old girl to survive and escape.”