WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4)- Police in Westminster said the dismembered body found in Pattridge Open Space Park is that of missing 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway. Now the investigation will focus on finding her abductor.
“It is with a great deal of sorrow in my heart that I regret to inform you that the body that was found in Arvada has been positively identified as Jessica Ridgeway,” said Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation used DNA as part of its forensic investigation in positively identifying the body as that of Jessica.
“The family has been notified. We can’t begin to comprehend the amount of grief they’re going through,” said Birk. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. They’ve been in our hearts from the beginning.”
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“Our focus has changed from the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica,” said Birk. “All our efforts now are in search of her abductor. There is a predator at large in our community.”
The FBI is joining several other agencies in searching for Jessica’s abductor. They have ruled out her family as being involved.
“We’ve eliminated the family and we are looking for an abductor at this point,” said FBI Denver spokesman Dave Joly.
“To date we’ve searched more than 500 homes, over 1,000 vehicles, and responded to more than 1,500 tips provided by the public,” said FBI Special Agent In Charge Jim Yacone. “We’ve covered thoroughly more than 800 leads with hundreds more to follow. Evidence teams will continue to process relevant items of interest as they’re discovered.”
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The Jefferson County School District is assisting police and investigators in the search for the abductor. Jessica was a student as Witt Elementary School.
“Our priority now is the investigation, the apprehension and the prosecution of the person that did this,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey. “Bringing the person to justice.”
The FBI is asking for help in finding Jessica’s killer. Search crews will continue to search for evidence and clues in hopes of locating the person who abducted and murdered the elementary student.
“Be vigilent. We want you to look for changes in habits, patterns, peculiar absences of those around you and report it to law enforcement,” said Yacone.
Investigators from Jefferson and Douglas counties searched Standley Lake in Westminster.
“I want our community to know that we are doing everything in our power to apprehend that individual,” said Birk. “We are doing everything to keep those children in our community safe.”
Investigators also searched Pattridge Open Space Park in Arvada where her body was found.
The FBI Safe Streets Task Force is comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement. They have been part of the investigation from the beginning.
“They work child abductions,” said Yacone. “They bring a vast amount of knowledge and resources with them.”
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Local FBI agents also have access to national resources with specific expertise in child abductions and kidnappings.
Gov. John Hickenlooper released this statement today about the Jessica Ridgeway case: “This is an unthinkable end to an unthinkable crime in our community. It is with a profound sense of sorrow that we learned of Jessica Ridgeway’s death. On behalf of all of Colorado, we offer our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. The Colorado Department of Public Safety and other federal, state and local agencies involved in the case will continue to provide all of the support they can as the investigation continues.”
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The following is known about Jesscia Ridgeway’s disappearance:
- Jessica Ridgeway, 10, disappeared on her way to school on the morning of Oct. 5. After leaving home on foot, she never met up with friends she normally walks to school with at Chelsea Park. The park is about three blocks from her home and about a mile from the school.
- When she didn’t arrive at Witt Elementary School in Westminster, Jefferson County 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 about five hours before the protocols were met in the case for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to call an Amber Alert.
- Ridgeway’s backpack was found on the sidewalk near Alpha Court and Andrew Drive in the Rock Creek neighborhood in Superior. That’s 6.4 miles away from her home. It’s unknown so far at what point the backpack wound up there.
- The CBI analyzed the backpack for DNA evidence and collected evidence from Ridgeway’s home for comparison.
- Searches were taking place around Jessica’s home and her school, as well as in open space areas in Westminster. Another area that underwent an extensive search was Rock Creek and open space areas near there.
- A day after their tearful televised plea for help and thanks to the community, police on Oct. 10 ruled out Ridgeway’s parents as being involved in her disappearance. Police said Ridgeway may have been abducted by an unknown suspect.
- Late in the day on Oct. 11 a body is found in Arvada near Highway 93, about seven miles from Ridgeway’s home. That body was positively identified as Jessica on Oct. 12.
- On October 11 the FBI released a suspect profile from their Behavioral Analysis Unit.
Westminster Police Ridgeway Case Tip Line: (303) 658-4336 or firstname.lastname@example.org