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Elizabeth Smart shares joyful message after missing teen Jayme Closs is found

The kidnapping survivor sent a heartfelt message to Closs and her family after authorities said the missing teen escaped her alleged kidnapper.
/ Source: TODAY

Child safety activist and kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart sent a joyful message on Friday calling the return of missing teen Jayme Closs "a miracle."

Closs, 13, had been missing since her parents were found shot to death in their Wisconsin home three months ago. Authorities on Friday said they have arrested Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, on multiple charges related to her abduction and the October murder of her parents.

"What a miracle!!! Jayme Closs has been found!" she wrote. "I’m so thrilled to hear the news. What has been such a heart wrenching tragedy finally has some happiness in the story."

Closs escaped and was found Thursday afternoon by a woman walking her dog in Gordon, Wisconsin, about 100 miles away from the Closs' home in Barron. The woman immediately took her to the nearest home, which belonged to Kristin Kasinkas, to call for help.

"She knocked on our door, and then actually opened our door and said, ‘Call 911. This is Jayme Closs!'” Kasinskas told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on Friday. “We recognized Jayme immediately. I mean, her picture has been everywhere around here. Billboards and things. We recognized her immediately."

Smart also called on others to allow Closs and her family time to process everything that has happened.

"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.

"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! I hope we may all continue to support and embrace Jayme as she reclaims her life and comes to terms with the reality of her situation."

Smart is now a mother of three and a child safety advocate after enduring her own horrific kidnapping ordeal as a teen.

On June 5, 2002, Smart, who was 14 at the time, was kidnapped from her bedroom at her family's home in Salt Lake City, Utah, by homeless street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.

For the next nine months, she was repeatedly raped and assaulted. On March 12, 2003, she was recognized while out with the two in Sandy, Utah, and rescued.

Barzee was released from prison in September, more than five years ahead of her initial release date, which Smart called "incomprehensible." Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence.

Smart also knows what it's like to be a survivor facing questions about her time in captivity. She spoke on TODAY in 2017 about being asked why she never tried to run away.

"It's not because any one of us enjoys being hurt,'' she said. "It's not because any one of us enjoys being raped or kidnapped. It's because we can. We do everything we can to survive, and there's reasons why we make those decisions."

With that in mind, Smart asked on Friday for people to just be thankful that Closs is alive and added the hashtag #novictimblaming.

"What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!!" she wrote. "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."