Sheriff Fitzgerald reflects on the 'surreal' moment Jayme Closs returned

Just six days ago, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald was preparing a three-month public update on the search for Jayme Closs, scheduled for Jan. 15.

“Every night we went to bed thinking, 'maybe today is the day.' Then it happened. It’s kinda surreal, unbelievable,” he said.

Fitzgerald was prepared to release some new evidence and a website portal for more tips to help crack the case.

Now, the “Find Jayme” signs are painted with smiley faces.

“It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been going to a call,” Sheriff Fitzgeral said. “I have delivered death notifications, I have done hundreds of things as sheriff. I wasn’t wearing my uniform; I didn’t want to intimidate her. I went to make sure everyone’s needs are being met, and when I saw Jayme sitting at the counter, smiling away, it was the best feeling I ever had - maybe in my life...awesome, overwhelming feeling."

The sheriff said since Jayme’s return home, many have asked about what will be done with the $50,000 reward.

When asked if Jayme would get the reward because she “cracked” the case, Sheriff Fitzgerald said it’s under consideration.

“The FBI is still determining a reward, going through their process. We’re not in charge of that money,” he said. “I expect something to do with the reward in the near future.”

FOX 9 asked Sheriff Fitzgerald about the near-miss on Oct. 15 - as detailed in the court documents – in which responding officers sped past Jake Patterson’s car on Highway 8 on their way to the Closs house.

“The make and model wasn’t exact. It’s easy to second-guess when you have the exact information. At 90 mph, going by with flashing lights on, the color wasn’t exact…we’re not second-guessing ourselves or our deputies or our team in the back at all. They did everything they could to make this happen.”

Sheriff Fitzgerald said the department is now focused on keeping the community feeling safe after the eventful and surprising week.

“We didn’t want it to be random; we were hoping it wasn’t. It was random, but well-planned out, two of the worst things you can have for any crime. This is my struggle, what do you say to people and how to keep our children safe.”