MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over the past three months, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald and Barron Area Schools Superintendent Diane Tremblay have been visible pillars of strength in this community, holding out hope for 88 days. Now that Jayme is home, they say the healing process can begin.

Fitzgerald hasn’t been able to wipe the smile off his face since meeting Jayme for the very first time this week.

“Just to see that smile … it was only 15 minutes of my life but it was probably one of the best 15 minutes I’ve ever had in my life,” Fitzgerald said.

After a frustrating investigation filled with little evidence and no clear motive, it’s clear Jayme is the hero of her own story.

“The will of a 13 year old girl is really what’s going to carry us,” Fitzgerald said.

He believes Barron will be even more resilient in the moving forward.

“Our neighbors have helped neighbors, and have paid attention now to other neighbors, and got to know their neighbors through this case, and we’ll only build a stronger community from this,” Fitzgerald said.

Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald and Superintendent Diane Tremblay (credit: CBS)

Superintendent Tremblay appeared alongside Sheriff Fitzgerald at vigils and press conferences.

“It just feels so good,” Tremblay said. “If you let kids talk, they’ll talk.”

Tremblay is now tasked with balancing the unbelievable joy of Jayme’s return with the horrific reality of what took place.

“We can’t forget that we did have a huge tragedy and loss, and the randomization of it probably strikes a little bit of a new fear, different fear,” she said.

Before October 15, there was already an initiative in place to bring a trauma-informed team to the 1,400 students of the district. That plan is still in place.

“I am meeting with every grade level tomorrow, boys and girls, everybody, I’m meeting with everyone,” Tremblay said. “The intention of that is so that I can kind of keep my finger on that pulse.”

She will then meet with the Department of Justice on Thursday to discuss students’ needs and a plan moving forward.

“If and when we get Jamie back in our hallways, we’re going to do the best we can for her,” she said.

As for the suspect in this case, Jake Patterson was moved from the Barron County Jail to the Polk County Jail on Monday night. Sheriff Fitzgerald says this was an administrative decision and was not based on any threats. All court hearings will still take place in Barron County.

Reg Chapman