Authorities: Body is that of missing Colorado girl
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The weeklong search for a 10-year-old Colorado girl became a murder investigation after authorities identified a body found in a suburban Denver park as that of fifth-grader Jessica Ridgeway.
"Our focus has changed from the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said Friday. "We recognize there is a predator at large in our community."
Anxious parents kept close watch over their children. Fueling the frustration: The FBI again urged residents to report any suspicious activity by people they know.
"We want you to look for changes of habits, patterns, peculiar absences of those around you and report it to law enforcement," said Jim Yacone, FBI special agent in charge in Denver.
The U.S. Marshals Service, immigration officials and state Department of Corrections were reviewing registered sex offenders in the area, Yacone said without elaborating.
Investigators have received more than 1,500 tips from the public. Authorities also have searched more than 500 homes and more than 1,000 vehicles but still need the public's help, Yacone said.
Jessica was last seen beginning a short walk from her home to Witt Elementary School on the morning of Oct. 5. She never arrived. A search by hundreds of law officers did not start until hours later because Jessica's mother works nights and slept through a call from school officials saying Jessica wasn't there.
Jessica's backpack was found on a sidewalk in Superior on Oct. 7, some 6 miles northwest of her Westminster home. On Wednesday, authorities discovered a body in Arvada, about 7 miles west of her home, in a park in Arvada. They announced the body was Jessica's on Friday.
Over the week, police said Jessica had been abducted. They don't suspect her parents, Sarah Ridgeway of Westminster, and Jeremiah Bryant of Missouri.
Signs of the tragedy are everywhere in Jessica's neighborhood of modest, two-story homes with single-car garages.
Community members planned a gathering Saturday to celebrate Jessica's life.
Officers have searched homes and yards and guarded crosswalks. They've photographed cars entering the neighborhood. Mailboxes and trees were encircled by ribbons in Jessica's favorite color, purple.
Law-enforcement leaders said they would not disclose more information, saying it would jeopardize the investigation.
The FBI said they have not ruled out that the search for the suspect could be national.
"People kind of don't know what to expect because we don't know where this guy is or who he is or what he's capable of doing. That's the most horrible thing," said Suzette Morgan, a mother of two boys ages 13 and 8.
Lisa Kempton's three boys attend Jessica's school.
"I just make sure that if they go out that they stick together," Kempton said. "I'm trying not to live in fear, because ultimately that's when the crazies win."
Mary Sherman, who has a 16-year-old son and two daughters ages 13 and 11, said she and her neighbors are ensuring that children are monitored by trusted adults as they walk to school or the bus stop.
"We still have a fabulous community," Sherman said. "We'll move on."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- Attorney General’s twin sister sued by FBI agent ex-boyfriend
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin
- Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Tigers
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins
- Young Nebraska girl’s organs give 2 Pittsburgh-area boys a chance to live
- Gov. Wolf vetoes bill to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor system
- Shaken by economic, political turmoil, MLB forsaking Venezuela
- Hempfield bicyclist gets one last chance from Westmoreland County judge
- Pitt offensive tackle Jones-Smith to miss season
- Lower Burrell couple charged with 6 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty