Elizabeth Smart Rejoices After Jayme Closs Is Found Alive: 'What a Miracle'

Robyn Merrett
Elizabeth Smart Rejoices After Jayme Closs Is Found Alive: 'What a Miracle'

Elizabeth Smart was “thrilled” to hear that missing teen Jayme Closs has been found.

“What a miracle!!!” Smart, 31, who endured nine months in captivity after being abducted from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, wrote on Instagram.

“What has been such a heart-wrenching tragedy finally has some happiness in the story,” Smart continued. “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 are all mindful to give the family their space and privacy on their road to finding a new sense of normal and moving forward.”

“I have no doubt Jayme and her family will forever appreciate the efforts and prayers of the many thousands of people who contributed and kept them in their thoughts and prayers!”

“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,” Smart added.

Smart was just one year older than Jayme, 13, when she was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee.

On Thursday evening, eighty-seven days after she vanished from her home where her parents James, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, were fatally shot on Oct. 15, Jayme escaped from her alleged abductor and was found by a woman who was walking her dog.

Jeanne Nutter, the woman who found Jayme in Gordon, Wisconsin, on Thursday, recalled being approached by a young girl who told her, “I’m lost, and I don’t know where I am, and I need help,” according to CNN.

Nutter said Jayme “wasn’t dressed for the weather,” and was without a coat or gloves. “When she told me who she was, I figured she must have left in a hurry,” said the Eau Claire native, who has a cabin in the same area where Jayme was allegedly held captive by 21-year-old suspect Jake Thomas Patterson.

Patterson has been charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one of kidnapping.

Jayme Closs

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

“When she got near me and I could see who she was, she told me, ‘I’m Jayme,'” Nutter said.

“I just held onto her and I said, ‘We’re going to find somebody who’s home, we’re going to call the police. You’re going to be okay, you’re going to be safe, you’re going to be fine, you’re going to be fine,'” Nutter remembered telling Jayme.

RELATED: Mayor of Barron, WI is “Overwhelmed” After Jayme Closs Found Alive Almost 3 Months After She Disappeared

According to Baron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, Jayme was cleared medically Friday morning and was reunited with her relatives late Friday. The teen will live with her aunt, Jennifer Smith — Jayme’s mother’s sister and legal guardian — a close friend of Jayme Closs‘ aunt told PEOPLE on Friday.

Jayme Closs

Investigators continue to speak to Jayme, and are still learning more about her harrowing ordeal, Fitzgerald said.

“Jayme is a complete badass,” Jodie Arnold, who is first cousins with Jayme’s late mother Denise, told PEOPLE. “As far as I’m concerned she saved herself,” said Arnold, who credits Jayme’s “perseverance and will to live” for her freedom.

RELATED: Wisconsin Teen Jayme Closs’ Bravery Credited for Cracking Missing Person’s Case: Sheriff

At Friday’s morning press conference, Fitzgerald alleged the suspect planned the crime and that “Jayme was the only target,” and that Patterson allegedly went to the home for the purpose of kidnapping Jayme.

Fitzgerald said the suspect had no prior contact with Jayme’s parents, but her parents were longtime employees of the Jennie-O Turkey Store, and the company confirms to PEOPLE that the suspect worked there for one day.