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Day 6: Body found during search for missing Westminster girl Jessica Ridgeway

11:10 PM, Oct 10, 2012   |    comments
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  • is a few miles from Jessica's home and several miles south of where Jessica's backpack was found in Superior.

Westminster Police spokesperson Trevor Materasso did not release the gender or approximate age of the body.

Investigators removed what appeared to be a body from the scene just before 9 p.m. Wednesday.  

The Pattridge Park open space area south of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is dotted with abandoned coal mines. The area is favored by road bikers and model airplane flyers on weekends.

It is about seven miles southwest of Jessica's home and several miles south of where Jessica's backpack was found in Superior.

The FBI, which has been assisting with the investigation, said no other details will be discussed at this time.

Westminster Police plan to release more information at 6:30 a.m. Thursday during a live press conference.

The area where the body was found will remain an active crime scene overnight Wednesday, police said.

Counselors will be on standby Thursday at  Jessica's school, Witt Elementary. 

Materasso said Wednesday afternoon that the police do not believe the parents are involved.


Jessica was last seen Friday morning as she left for school. Police believe she was abducted.

"At this point in the investigation, after thoroughly looking at the parents, we're confident they're not involved in the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway," Materasso said Wednesday afternoon. "The focus shifts to [an] unknown suspect."

Materasso says the department started talking to Maine police after a significant tip came forward where a tipster claimed they saw a girl matching Jessica's description in a car in Maine on Sunday. Materasso says they are taking it seriously, as they are all the other tips they have received.

Materasso also said Witt Elementary School - which is where Jessica attended - will be on lockout as the investigation continues. Police requested the lockout because of police activity around the school. What this means for parents is they can come and pick up their kids if they show identification, and kids cannot play outside during recess.

Westminster Police say the department has taken more than 650 phone calls on their tip line regarding Jessica's disappearance. He encouraged residents to keep calling, tweeting, texting their friends and posting on Facebook to make sure people know to keep looking for Jessica.


Materasso said Wednesday during an early-morning press conference land and bodies of water searches will continue on Wednesday. The land searches are focused on around the area where she disappeared. The bodies of water searches are merely precautionary.

On Monday afternoon, an 11-year-old girl in Cody, Wyo., was lured into an SUV by a man who approached her and two friends. He told them that he was missing his black lab puppy and asked if they could help him find it, police say.

One girl climbed in and he drove away. Later, one of the other children called the police to report the incident.

An Amber Alert was issued, and police received a report of a little girl walking down a road just outside Cody. It was the missing girl, and the Amber Alert was canceled.

It is unknown at this time whether this Cody case and Jessica's case are connected, however Materasso confirmed Wednesday they are investigating all angles and are aware of the case. 

Cody, Wyo. is about 500 miles northwest of Westminster.

Authorities continued to search the area around Jessica's home as well as some open-field areas on Tuesday. They brought dogs to help them in their efforts also.

In a Tuesday press conference, Materasso said 400 homes were searched in Jessica's neighborhood. He says authorities are halfway done with their search of the homes.

Westminster Police released two new photos and a video of Jessica on Tuesday to help people better identify her.

Watch the video below:

"We really want people to focus on Jessica's facial features," Materasso said. "Two things of note that you will see - particularly in the video - she has a gap between her two front teeth, when you see that video, it's fairly obvious and a distinguishing characteristic. As well, she's got a sore at the top of her nose just below where her glasses sit. That sore doesn't heal, so it's a good indicator if you see someone you think is Jessica those two things are good to pay particular attention to."

Materasso emphasized to residents they should stop focusing on what she was wearing at the time of her disappearance and instead focus on her mannerisms and her demeanor.

Materasso says the investigation may focus more on an abduction than her being a possible runaway. 

Authorities did find some new items Monday night, however they cannot confirm if they are directly tied to Jessica. The only item authorities are confirming is Jessica's is the backpack found on Sunday. Materasso reiterated they are being extremely diligent in their search efforts.

"We don't want to miss anything," Materasso said. "We're going to go back several times; we've going to cover our tracks. We're going to look in the same area that we've already looked. You're going to see a lot of activity ... in and around her home, and that's going to continue today. There's nothing specific that's keeping us in that area other than we want to make sure there's no stone unturned, and we're focusing because, again, that is where Jessica disappeared from."

More than 125 personnel from 12 agencies took part in Monday's search. They focused on the area between Highway 128 and Highway 93, including Eldorado Canyon in Boulder. Eight to 10 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers also participated in the search Monday.

Investigators worked with bloodhounds and used two teams of four to search the areas that were already been cleared.

Crews also searched along Highway 36, it was announced Monday during a press conference.

Police confirmed a backpack found in a Superior neighborhood Sunday belongs to Jessica.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation will be testing the backpack for additional evidence. Police say that the backpack was found in the Rock Creek subdivision, 6.2 miles from Jessica's house. Authorities don't know when the bag was put there. They are asking parents in the Rock Creek subdivision to talk to their kids to see if they noticed anything out of the ordinary. Authorities have stationed police officers at schools in the area, though there is no indication other children are in danger. Three police checkpoints were established in the area Sunday. Police stopped and questioned people as they drove in and out of the neighborhood.

Westminster investigator Cheri Spottke says more than 800 volunteers helped look for Jessica Saturday.

On Saturday, a dive team went into Ketner Reservoir in order to rule the area out in the search.


Sunday night, a person identifying himself as Jessica's cousin posted the following message on the Facebook page set up for the missing girl:

I have a message from the family (I am her cousin) that I want to be heard by everyone following this Facebook and the twitter account.

I want to thank everyone for the incredible support pouring in from all over Facebook and twitter and everyone in the community. Seeing how many people standing together and are looking for my cousin has made me immensely proud and humbled. This is not simply a family crisis, it has evolved into a community crisis and everyone pulling together is truly inspiring. Please share this, with everyone and anyone. Thank you so much."

Jessica's father, who lives in Missouri, has been in contact with police. The father told investigators he does not know what happened to his daughter.

Though he refused to talk with reporters on Saturday night, 9NEWS affiliate KSHB-41 in Kansas City spoke with Jessica's great-grandmother who says they are doing everything they can to help in the investigation.

"The police asked if they could search my house, and I said yes because we'd do anything in the world to get her back," Donna Moss said.

Moss says Jessica's father, Jeremiah Bryant, is devastated and beside himself that his daughter is missing. She says that there is no custody issue between the parents and says they saw Jessica six weeks ago with her mom and maternal grandmother.

Moss pleaded for Jessica's safe return.

"If you've got her - get her back to her parents. She's a beautiful, wonderful, little girl and we want her back," she said.


Officers patrolled Jessica's elementary school on Monday. Police and parents took every precaution as they hoped for Jessica's safe return.

"It's very scary," Natalie Madrid said. "I'm a single mother of three."

"It's just an eye opener," Madrid added. "You need to protect your kids. You need to make sure your kids are where they need to go. It's devastating, and it's scary."

"I can't imagine what their mother is going through," Madrid said. "It could happen to any parent."

Jessica's disappearance is just frightening for her classmates and friends.

"They're just wishing she could come home safe," sixth grader Nick Ramirez said. "They talked about it all day."

Ramirez says many of his classmates talked to counselors Monday.

"[I'm] sad and scared at the same time," Ramirez said. "It's so close to home."

This is not the first scare close to the elementary school. On Memorial Day weekend, a woman escaped an attempted kidnapping at Ketner Lake.

The 22-year-old told Westminster Police a man put a rag over her mouth that smelled like chemicals and tried to grab her. Police never found him. Ketner Open Space is less than half a mile from Chelsea Park - where Jessica disappeared. Police are not saying if they suspect a connection, but it's enough to make some parents nervous.

"That's two incidents in the neighborhood," Sergio Ramirez said.

Ramirez says it's enough to make any parent nervous.

"[It's] the unknown," Ramirez said. "That's for sure."

More than anything, Ramirez wants Jessica to come home safely.

"She needs all of our prayers," Ramirez said.


Jessica usually walks three blocks from Moore Street to Chelsea Park where she would meet up with a large group of friends before walking 1.3 miles to school. In that three-block radius, she disappeared.

Police say Jessica's mother works an overnight shift, and her grandmother watches her at night. When Jessica's mother got home at 7:30 a.m., she saw Jessica off to school at 8:30 a.m., according to 9NEWS reporter Kevin Torres.

Police say they got a late start searching because her mother didn't immediately realize Jessica was missing. Officers say her mother slept through calls from school officials to tell her Jessica was absent.

Westminster Police sent out an emergency-text alert advising residents to be on the lookout before a system-wide Amber Alert was issued by the CBI Friday evening.

"[We] started activating a lot of personnel to start searching for her," Materasso said.

An Amber Alert is only issued if authorities fear the child is in immediate danger. Find out more requirements for an Amber Alert here,

Three weeks ago, students at an Arvada school saw a man in a dark sedan trying to lure kids closer to his vehicle. JeffCo schools sent letters out to all of its schools - including Witt Elementary where Jessica attends school. Police are looking into whether there's a connection.



A new flier with updated information was distributed Monday. It shows Jessica with and without her glasses.

Police have been updating volunteers and the public through their Twitter page. You can follow the Westminster Police here: They are asking residents to not send them tips via social media. Instead use the tip line listed below.

Police released a phone number and email for anyone with information: 303-658-4336 and


Two communities came together to pray for Jessica's safe return Tuesday.

A vigil was held in the Superior neighborhood where her backpack was found on Sunday. Another one was held in her Westminster neighborhood where she disappeared. 

A few people spoke at Tuesday's gathering including the mayor of Westminster. She addressed the crowd asking for whomever took Jessica to return her home, unharmed.

Seven- to eight-hundred people held their cellphones and flashlights up to the heavens for Light Up The Night For Jessica. Men, women and children gathered - all hoping for the safe return of Jessica. Some were from the area while others were not. Some knew the girl, others only found out about her after her disappearance, but they all have one thing in common - they want Jessica to be found safe and sound.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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