WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 500 concerned residents joined authorities in Westminster Saturday in the search for a 10-year-old girl who police say went missing while walking to school.
Saturday’s volunteer searches followed the activation of an Amber Alert by authorities at 9:15 p.m. on Friday for Jessica Ridgeway.
Ridgeway was described as being 4-foot-10, 80 pounds with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. She was wearing blue jeans with a black puffy jacket with a pink lining, purple eyeglasses and black boots with pom-poms.
When Ridgeway didn’t arrive at Witt Elementary School Friday morning, Jeffco Schools officials tried to contact her mother. They made a call at 10 a.m. but were only able to leave a voicemail. Ridgeway’s mother, who works an overnight shift and sleeps during the day, didn’t get the message until 4:30 p.m. and immediately contacted Westminster police. It took almost five hours before the protocols were met in the case for the Colorado Bureau Of Investigation to call an an Amber Alert.
Police said Saturday that Ridgeway was last seen leaving her home to walk to school at 8:30 a.m. They said her normal routine is to walk about three blocks to to Chelsea Park where she meets classmates and walks a little over a mile to the school in a group. They said she never met up with her friends.
A search perimeter on Saturday was set up whose boundaries were 88th Avenue, Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, Old Wadsworth Boulevard and Rocky Flats at Indiana Street. Multiple police agencies are involved in the search, including the FBI, the Adams County Sheriff’s Department and a Rampart Search and Rescue team. Approximately 50 personnel were involved during the day.
Some of that effort involved knocking on doors with flyers showing Ridgeway’s photo, stopping and talking to drivers, as well as contacting some residents by phone.
Volunteers were also busy searching in organized groups along trails, in parks and in open spaces on Saturday. Sheriff’s officials said they don’t want people to conduct random searches because that might interfere with a bloodhound team which is also searching in some areas. By nightfall on Saturday police called off the searches and announced that people should stay tuned for announcements about future volunteer searches.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the local community and people that want to help,” Westminster police spokesman Trevor Materasso said on the CBS4 Morning News on Saturday.
A dive team was also called out in the afternoon to Ketner Reservoir “as a search tool to rule out the lake.” Due to weather conditions no helicopters have been able to be deployed to help with the search so far.
Ridgeway’s family hasn’t spoken publicly about the case. Police said in a news release on Saturday that they are aware of a child custody dispute involving Ridgeway’s father. They wrote that out-of-state police “have been in contact with Jessica’s father and do not believe she is with him.”
Anyone with helpful information is asked to contact Investigator Materasso at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call (303) 658-4360. Westminster police are posting information on their Twitter page (@WestminsterPD) (#JessicaRidgeway).