Wisconsin lawmakers presented Jayme Closs with the "Hometown Hero" award and gave her a standing ovation Wednesday during one of the few public appearances the teen has made since she escaped from the man who abducted her after killing her parents.
Surrounded by family and friends, Closs quietly stood before the Wisconsin Assembly as it saluted her bravery and strength.
"You're truly an inspiration and a bright light during a time of sadness," said Rep. Romaine Quinn of Barron, Jayme's hometown. "You taught us an important lesson: No matter how grave your situation, no matter how dark your days become and no matter how impossible your circumstances may seem, there is always hope."
Jake Patterson pleaded guilty in March to killing Jayme's parents and kidnapping their 13-year-old daughter last October. He held Jayme captive in his family's cabin outside Gordon, Wis., an hour north of Barron, for 88 days until she escaped on the afternoon of Jan. 10.
Jayme looked up and smiled briefly Wednesday as the lawmakers stood to applaud her resolve and courage.
Jayme's aunt, Jen Smith, spoke on the teen's behalf, thanking the Assembly for the tribute.
"Jayme is enjoying her day here more than you can imagine," Smith said. "She gratefully appreciates the honor, the capitol tour and the kindness of everyone involved."
Smith noted that residents in Barron and the surrounding area deserve the "Hometown" part of the award because of all their support, encouragement and love throughout the ordeal and its aftermath. And Jayme deserves the "hero" part of the award.
Jayme's courage, bravery and spirit has inspired so many, making "us stronger and better," she told lawmakers.
Since her homecoming, Jayme has made few public appearances. Her family and others have surrounded her and have asked for privacy.
Patterson is scheduled to appear in court May 24 to be sentenced for the crimes, ending an ordeal that has taken its toll on a family and all of Barron, a city of 3,400 residents about 90 miles northeast of the Twin Cities.
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