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Community Collectively Mourns For Jessica Ridgeway

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A candlelight vigil for Jessica Ridgeway on Friday night (credit: CBS)

A candlelight vigil for Jessica Ridgeway on Friday night (credit: CBS)

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WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Heartbreak, shock, anger and fear — all emotions many in the community feel after the emotional week.

Jessica Ridgeway’s disappearance touched many people, most who never met her. The community gathered Friday night at a Chelsea Park, which has temporarily been named Jessica Park, where Jessica would meet her friends and walk to school every day.

Purple ribbons line almost every main road in Westminster for Jessica.

For some people it was as if Jessica was their daughter.

“She wasn’t my little girl, but I learned so much about her I felt like she was part of my family,” parent Tamra Hermosilla said.

And then there are the children.

“It’s hard to imagine why someone would want to do this to such a nice little girl,” 11-year-old Seth Snyder said.

After school let out Friday teachers and staff from Witt Elementary School where Jessica attended met at a nearby park to grieve together. One child preferred to be alone while he prayed.

There is so much sadness and so much fear.

“The sicko is out here still. Who knows where he’s at, but we need to find him,” parent Shanna Pearsy said.

A lot has changed in the community.

“There was life before Friday and there’s life after Friday, when Jessica went missing,” parent Nicole Westendorf said.

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People gathered in “Jessica Park” on Saturday (credit: Rob McClure)

“It’s tough because when it first happened I had a couple of my friends actually call me and say, ‘She looks just like your daughter,’ ” parent Tom Gomez said. “My daughter has dark hair, she has blonde hair, but they look a lot alike.”

Saturday morning the Victory Church held a special Saturday service in memory of Jessica. Members and non-members were invited.

“This is the city where our church is, a lot of our family members live here in Westminster. Some of the children who come here go to school with Jessica,” the pastor said. “We wanted our community and church family to know that we can pray and God gives us peace.”

In an office building on Wadsworth Boulevard a steady stream of people took advantage of counseling offered by the Jefferson Center for Mental Health.

Also on Saturday about 1,000 people gathered at the American Furniture Warehouse in Westminster to release balloons in Jessica’s memory.

The following is known about Jesscia Ridgeway’s disappearance and murder:

- 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 pdamberalert@cityofwestminster.us

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