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Man charged in 11-year-old's disappearance pleads guilty

The Westminster girl was found at Michael Buckley's home after an AMBER alert was issued, according to the arrest affidavit.

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — The man charged in connection to the November 2021 disappearance of an 11-year-old girl in Westminster pleaded guilty to two counts on Monday, according to the 1st Judicial District Attorney's Office said.

Michael Patrick Buckley pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child and criminal attempt to commit sexual assault on a child, according to the District Attorney's Office, which covers Jefferson County.

> The video above is from Nov. 2021.

Sentencing is scheduled for 8 a.m. July 15.

The girl was reported missing Nov. 16, 2021, after she left her home that afternoon, according to Westminster Police Department. She told her mother she was going to Countryside Park and was reported missing after failing to check in as required by her parents, police said.

> Content Warning: The subject matter in this story may be disturbing to anyone sensitive to stories pertaining to violence against children.

The next day, a man reported a girl approached a contractor working on his home about 3:15 p.m. Nov. 16 and asked to use his cellphone, according to an arrest affidavit. He allowed the girl to use his phone to call someone she described as her "boyfriend," the affidavit says.

She walked away before returning about 20 minutes later to use the man's phone again, according to the affidavit.

The contractor said the girl claimed to be 23 but he "did not believe her" because "she looked much younger," the affidavit reads. He also told investigators that she said she recently met her "boyfriend" through Craigslist, where he had been selling rats, according to the affidavit.

PREVIOUS: Cellphone key in helping Westminster police locate missing 11-year-old girl

The contractor took a picture of the vehicle that arrived to pick up the girl, including the license plate, because he found the circumstances concerning, the affidavit says.

Investigators were able to use that information to identify Buckley as a potential suspect and were able to link the phone number the girl called to Buckley and then pinged his cellphone, according to the affidavit.

The cellphone pinged in the neighborhood where Buckley lived, and officers went to his home, where he answered the door, the affidavit reads. Officers yelled the missing girl's name from the front door and a female voice replied from inside the home, according to the affidavit.

The girl was positively identified as the missing child, and she reported having sexual contact with Buckley, the affidavit says.

Buckley declined to make a statement but said during the booking process that his phone had text messages that would "prove" the girl was "portraying herself as an adult," according to the affidavit.

The girl's family released the following statement after she was found:

"We are so grateful to have [our daughter] home and safe," the family statement said. "We would request privacy. It is very comforting to know that families like ours are supported by a close-knit community and overwhelming response from the Westminster Police Department along with all the other first responder agencies who step up to help. We just want to offer the biggest thanks to all who helped us in a time of need."

Janet Oravetz contributed to the reporting of this story. 

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