Authorities in Colorado confirmed Friday that the body found earlier this week in a field is that of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, who went missing a week ago.
"Our focus has changed from a search for Jessica to a mission for justice for Jessica," Westminister, Colorado, Police Chief Lee Birk. "We realize there is a predator at large in our community."
"It's not the news we wanted," said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey. "It's a tragedy."
The body was found Wednesday in the Pattridge Park open space in Arvada, about seven miles from Jessica’s home. Police told reporters that the body was “not intact.”
Jessica was last seen leaving her mother’s house on Friday, October 5, to walk to school. When Jessica didn’t arrive at school, school officials tried to contact her mother. Her mother, Sarah Ridgeway, who works the overnight shift and sleeps during the day, didn’t get the voicemail about her daughter until later that afternoon. An Amber Alert was later issued.
Jessica’s backpack and a water bottle were found two days later in a subdivision about six miles from her home and 11 miles from the location where the body was found.
Police have ruled out Jessica’s parents as being involved in her disappearance.
The FBI discussed possible behavioral traits of Jessica’s abductor in a press release:
- Immediately following the incident, he may miss work. The absence will be sudden and unplanned. He may either be a “no show” or he may offer a plausible excuse such as illness, death in the family, car trouble, etc.
- He may miss scheduled appointments/commitments and be unaccounted for during this period. These appointments/commitments may include such things as medical appointments, meetings with a probation officer, a prior commitment to a friend or family member, a drug test, etc.
- He may suddenly leave town, either with no explanation or with some plausible reason.
- This individual may express an intense interest in the status of this investigation and pay close attention to the media. However, some offenders may quickly turn off media accounts or try to redirect conversations concerning the victims or their families.
- There may be changes in the usual consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.
- He may make a change in his appearance or alter something to prevent identification, such as changing the look of his vehicle, cleaning or discarding his vehicle.
“We suspect somebody in the community knows this individual,” said FBI spokesman David Joly. “We’re asking for the community’s support once again. The community has been very supportive in the efforts so far to this investigation, and we’re asking that they do this one more time to help us gather new leads and new information to bring this to a conclusion.”
Investigators are still asking for tips from the public in the case. Anyone with any information is asked to call 303-658-4336.