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By Elizabeth Chuck
Elizabeth Smart, the Utah woman who was held captive for nine months when she was 14 years old, says she is “thrilled” that Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs has been found alive after missing for nearly three months.
“What a miracle!!! Jayme Closs has been found!!!! I’m so thrilled to hear the news,” Smart wrote in an Instagram post Friday morning, a day after Jayme was discovered in a remote area about 70 miles away from her hometown.
Authorities had been searching for Jayme, 13, ever since Oct. 15, when her parents were found shot dead in their Barron, Wisconsin, home. They said they believed that Jayme had witnessed the killings, but had vanished by the time police got to the house.
On Thursday afternoon, Jayme, looking malnourished and with her hair matted, emerged from a wooded area in the tiny town of Gordon, Wisconsin, and approached a woman walking her dog. The woman recognized her and walked her to a neighbor’s house, shouting, “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!”
Smart, who has become an outspoken advocate against child abduction since she was found after being taken at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002, called the development “some happiness” in an otherwise heart-wrenching tragedy.
“I’m praying for Jayme and all her family that they can have a joyous reunion and as the rest of the country celebrates alongside this happy occasion we all are mindful to give the family their space and privacy on their road to finding a new sense of normal and moving forward,” Smart wrote.
“What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!! No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED.”
She added: “What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!! No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED and whatever other details may surface the most important will still remain that she is alive. May God bless you Jayme Closs and may we all continue to search for every missing child.”
A news conference on Jayme’s return is expected later Friday morning. Kristin and Peter Kasinskas, the couple who called 911 when Jayme showed up on their doorstep, described the girl as quiet but said that she made clear that she had been abducted and held against her will.
She “kind of talked about being locked up or hidden when this person had to leave,” Kristin Kasinskas told “Today” on Friday.
Authorities have not given any details yet about Jayme’s ordeal.
Smart, 31, has said she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her kidnapper, street pastor Brian David Mitchell, as Mitchell’s wife, Wanda Barzee, sat nearby on the makeshift campsites where the couple held her.
Mitchell is serving a life sentence after being convicted of kidnapping and raping Smart. Barzee, was released in September, five years earlier than expected.
Smart is now married with three children.