The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

October 11, 2012

FBI seeks help in finding missing Colorado girl

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Authorities looking for a missing 10-year-old Colorado girl are asking the public for help finding who apparently kidnapped her, a day after a body was found in a park.

Police have yet to link the body found seven miles from Jessica Ridgeway's home to her Oct. 5 disappearance, or even say if it belongs to a child. Jessica disappeared after leaving home to meet friends at a park for her walk to school.

On Thursday, the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit released a list of changes that a person committing a crime against a child would exhibit. Among them: sudden differences in appearance, missed appointments, being absent from work, or leaving town with no explanation. Police have ruled out Jessica's parents.

"It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and ultimately it could be your family member," FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. "Bring this information to law enforcement and let us vet that to a close. If that person is not the suspect, 'Thank you for your call.' Next lead."

Joly said agents are searching for a man based on statistics for this type of crime.

The latest appeal for help comes as authorities switch from searching for Jessica to finding her abductor. Police looked for clues in a reported sighting of a car with Colorado plates in Maine and a Wyoming abduction. The FBI said Thursday that abduction was unrelated.

Police spokesman Trevor Materasso said the body discovered late Wednesday "is not intact," and that has slowed the work of identification. Materasso said no other information would be released until Friday, and he left a brief midday news conference without answering any questions.

The body was found at Pattridge Park in the Denver suburb of Arvada, which is near Westminster, where Jessica disappeared.

In tweets, Westminster police said investigators had worked overnight to identify the body. Officers searched more of the park Thursday as well as areas closer to Jessica's home. Police said photo radar vans — normally used to detect and photograph speeding vehicles — were being used to monitor some streets around the girl's house.

Police have ruled out her parents — Sarah Ridgeway, who lives in Colorado, and Jeremiah Bryant, who lives in Missouri — as suspects and have said they believe Jessica was kidnapped by an "unknown suspect."

Jessica's mother last saw her daughter walking to school. The girl never arrived, setting off a frantic search by hundreds of law enforcement officials and residents.

Aurelio Florez, who has lived in Jessica's neighborhood for six years, said it was shocking that Jessica could have vanished during a two-block walk to a park where she usually met friends before continuing on to school.

"You can see the park from her front door," he said.

Fliers about the fifth-grader were posted on nearly every house in her neighborhood of modest, two-story homes with single-car garages. Purple ribbons, a symbol of hope for her return, were tied around trees.

It was a lively area where children played outdoors, said another neighbor, Luis Pena, but since Jessica disappeared, parents are keeping their children inside and people look at each other with suspicion.

"Nobody trusts anybody anymore," he said.

The only real clue police have revealed in Jessica's disappearance is the discovery over the weekend of a backpack and water bottle that she had with her when she disappeared. Police won't discuss what was found in the bag or test results on it.

The items were found in the town of Superior, some six miles from Jessica's home.

Westminster police repeatedly have urged the public to study the details of Jessica's face in a photo — a small, gap-toothed grin, a slight bruise on her nose — and a short home video, hoping someone may have seen something.

Additional police were sent to Jessica's school, said Lynn Setzer, spokeswoman for Jeffco Public Schools. The district has its own security officers at other middle schools and high schools.

Steve Saunders, a spokesman for nearby Adams County schools, said the district is trying to strike a balance between reassuring students and their parents that they are safe, while encouraging them to be vigilant.

Saunders said the district has security officers at all middle schools and high schools, but not elementary schools. He said the district will seek more help if authorities believe it is warranted.

 

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