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Missing Colorado girl's body ID'd

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 9:33 p.m.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — A body found in a suburban Denver park was identified on Friday as that of a missing 10-year-old girl, as anxious parents kept close watch over their children because of a potential predator in their midst, authorities said.

“Our focus has changed from the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica,” Westminster police Chief Lee Birk said. “We realize there is a predator at large in our community.”

The body of Jessica Ridgeway was found Wednesday about 7 miles southwest of her home. Authorities said it was not intact, but they did not explain further.

Jessica began a short walk from her home to Witt Elementary School on the morning of Oct. 5 but never arrived. A huge search by hundreds of law enforcement officers did not start until hours later because Jessica's mother works nights and slept through a call from school officials saying the girl was not there.

The FBI has warned residents that she may have been abducted by someone they know and asking them to be alert for people they know who might have suddenly changed their appearance or uncharacteristically missed work or appointments.

“It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and ultimately it could be your family member,” FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. “We suspect someone in the community knows this individual.”

Signs of the tragedy have been everywhere in Jessica's neighborhood of two-story, modest homes with single-car garages.

During the past week, officers have searched homes and yards. They kept guard at crosswalks and photographed cars entering the neighborhood. Mailboxes and trees were encircled by ribbons in Jessica's favorite color, purple.

“I don't feel safe for my daughter anymore, anywhere,” said Stacey Oppie, who lives in the neighborhood.

Two months ago, Oppie started letting her daughter play unsupervised with a friend at the park that Jessica customarily passed on her way to school. She doesn't intend to do that anymore.

“We're all a little bit on alert, but it's not fear. We're angry because this is a good neighborhood,” Oppie said.

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