WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – The hope for a homecoming for Jessica Ridgeway ended brutally but the case is far from over.
One week from the day she went missing, what happened to 10-year-old Jessica was confirmed Friday.
“With a great deal of sorrow in my heart I regret to inform you that the body that was found in Arvada has been positively identified as Jessica Ridgeway, the missing girl from Westminster,” Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said.
The remains discovered Wednesday, which police say were not fully intact, were positively identified through DNA by the work of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Now the investigation heads in a new direction. On Saturday police were still combing open space areas looking for remains.
“Our focus has changed from a search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica,” Birk said.
FBI officials reiterated that the search through Jessica’s neighborhood and the surrounding community is far from over. Despite the hundreds of law enforcement officers from all over the state and across the country working the case, investigators say the public may have the most important role.
“We want you to look for changes in habits, peculiar absences of those around you and report it to law enforcement,” Jim Yacone with the FBI said.
The fearful reality is that the person responsible for taking a young innocent life hasn’t been found.
“We recognize that there is a predator at large in our community,” Birk said.
“Our priority now is the investigation, the apprehension and the prosecution of the person that did this,” Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org