'I always say hope and prayers work wonders': Barron reacts to Jayme Closs found alive

The community always kept the 13-year-old present over the three months she was missing

Sloane Martin
January 11, 2019 - 8:17 am

Outside Riverview Middle School in Barron County, Wis., where Jayme Closs was a student, a 16-foot evergreen shines brightly with blue and green lights in the early morning dawn. It was lit in a vigil Dec. 12 and affixed with a large green ribbon -- Jayme's favorite color -- as a symbol of the community's commitment to keeping hope alive for her safe return.

"We're going to keep it lit all day," a school employee said.

Barron's prayers were answered when the 13-year-old reportedly escaped her captor Thursday evening in rural Gordon, Wis., about an hour north of the home where she disappeared from Oct. 15 after her parents, James and Denise Closs, were slain. Jayme is at a hospital in Duluth as of Friday morning and will be reunited with her family later in the day.

For nearly three months, Barron was on edge, faced with a gruesome and horrific crime, without any clues to Jayme's whereabouts or condition. Multiple reports said she approached a woman walking her dog in Gordon at around 4 p.m. The pair then went to a home to call 911.

A massive search with 2,000 volunteers not far from her rural home turned up no evidence. Local law enforcement said investigators were looking into the family's past, as well as more than 2,000 tips that came in. In the start of the new year, there was little to show for the investigative effort. Then the Douglas County, Wis., sheriff's office contacted the Barron county sheriff's office that she had been found and a suspect was in custody.

"We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise," Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald wrote in a statement on Facebook. "From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!"

In Barron Friday morning, local residents were overjoyed at the news that the teen was found alive. With three months to analyze the horrendous crime in their own community, some assumed the worst.

"Everybody thought she was gone," Pete Sinclair said. "We figured we'd find her during deer hunting (season) in a cornfield some place. North (Wisconsin) was the one place we never thought she'd be. We thought she'd be in Minneapolis, Chicago if they found her."

But others kept Jayme present, and remained optimistic.

"I was hoping," Roxy LeBlanc said. "I always say hope and prayers work wonders."

"For the closest people sometimes you get that inside of you," Darren Bjugstad said of maintaining hope. "You're not sure you can believe it, but that;s what you want to believe. To not give up hope, that's what kept them going."