Investigators at a Friday press conference said that they have positively identified the body that was found on Thursday as 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.
"There is a predator at large in our community," said Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk, adding that the FBI is continuing to work with them to bring the perpetrator to justice.
"We can not afford to jeopardize this investigation. Be mindful of the impact on Jessica's family," said Jim Yacone with the FBI.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey thanked the media but reminded them that law enforcement's first priority would be to bring Jessica's abductor and murderer to justice.
"The most important thing we can do now is the investigation, the apprehension and the prosecution of the person who did this. Bringing the person to justice," Storey said. Then, addressing the media, "As a result, we will not be talking to you, we will not be answering questions."
"We will not rest until this person is caught," Trevor Materasso, Westminster Police Department spokesperson, said at the news conference.
Soon after the news conference, Gov. John Hickenlooper reacted to the news via statement:
This is an unthinkable end to an unthinkable crime in our community. It is with a profound sense of sorrow that we learned of Jessica Ridgeway’s death. On behalf of all of Colorado, we offer our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. The Colorado Department of Public Safety and other federal, state and local agencies involved in the case will continue to provide all of the support they can as the investigation continues.
Jessica was last seen on Friday, Oct. 5th around 8:30 a.m. making the three-block-walk to Chelsea Park where she usually meets a group of friends to walk to school with, but authorities say she never made it that far.
On Sunday, investigators say they found a backpack and water bottle believed to be Jessica's in the town of Superior, about six miles away from where she was last seen. The water bottle had her name on it and investigators are pursuing leads.
An Amber Alert went out late Friday night and the Westminster Police Department said that the FBI joined search efforts that same night.
One of Colorado's state criteria for issuing an Amber Alert is that the child must be in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death and on Wednesday, investigators said they were confident that Jessica's parents were not involved in her disappearance.
However, Westminster Police say that they got a late start searching for Jessica because her mother--who works the graveyard shift--hadn't realized she was missing since she slept through calls made from the school when Jessica didn't show.
Her mother said she arrived home at 7:30 a.m. and last saw Jessica around 8:30 a.m. when she watched her start walking to the park.
Jessica's parents gave tearful interviews to the media on Wednesday.
"I want her to come walking back through that door," Jessica's mother Sarah Ridgeway, told KUSA-TV in Denver. "I need her to come walking back through that door."
On Thursday police said they were focusing their attention on an unknown suspect and the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit released a list of possible behaviors Jessica's abductor might be exhibiting.
According to a profile detailed by the FBI's BAU, the suspect is likely a male and may be exhibiting changes in their behavior since last Friday when Jessica was first reported missing:
- Often, someone in the community will unknowingly be associated with the offender of the crime, and may be in a position to observe behavioral changes in that person. They will recognize the changes, and may even question the person about it, but may not relate the changes to that person’s involvement in the crime.
- 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, prior commitment to a friend or family member, 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, clean or discard his vehicle.