They have now used DNA to identify the body as hers.A dismembered body found in a park in a Denver suburb has been confirmed as that of missing 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway - while her killer remains at large.
'Our focus has changed from the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica,' Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said on Friday. 'We realise there is a predator at large in our community.'
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Found: A body found in a Denver, Colorado park has been identified as missing girl, Jessica Ridgeway
Police have not yet arrested a suspect and on Thursday, the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit released a list of changes that a person committing a crime against a child would exhibit.
Sudden differences in appearance, missed appointments, being absent from work, or leaving town with no explanation could suggest guilt, the guidelines said.
Analyst Clinton Van Zandt said other clues are activities that are out of character, such as a person who may have detailed their car when he normally would have only washed it.
'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.'
Joly said agents are searching for a man, based on statistics for this type of crime.
Police have ruled out as suspect Jessica's parents - Sarah Ridgeway, who lives in Colorado, and Jeremiah Bryant, who lives in Missouri - and believe Jessica was kidnapped by an 'unknown suspect'.
Discovery: Investigators carry away the dismembered body which was found behind an abandoned cabin
No accident: Police discovered the body after flooding a park on the outskirts of Arvada and combing through it -- walking side-by-side, no more than five feet apart
High and low: Dozens of officers combed through the area where Jessica was found, hoping to find additional pieces of evidence on Thurday
Ridgeway disappeared on Friday morning but an amber alert was not issued until the evening when her mother woke up after recovering from a night shift and realized she had not returned.
She had last seen her daughter her walking to a park to meet friends to go to school. Yet the girl never arrived at school, sparking a frantic search involving hundreds of law enforcement officials.
'It's so close to home,' said Chelsea Bozsak, a senior at nearby Standley Lake High School, where Jessica's cousin attends classes. 'That it could have happened to anyone in the community is scary.'
Fliers about the fifth-grader were posted on nearly every house in Jessica's neighborhood of modest, two-story homes with single-car garages.
Purple ribbons, Jessica's favorite color and a symbol of hope for her return, were tied around trees.
It was a lively area where children played outdoors, said 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.
Nearby: The body was discovered in Arvada, about nine miles from the subdivision in Westminster where she was last seen
Missed: A sign at the park where Jessica was supposed to meet her friends to walk to school is adorned with stuffed animals and balloons
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.
SEVEN AGONIZING DAYS SINCE JESSICA RIDGEWAY VANISHED
Day 1, Friday: Jessica Ridgeway disappeared shortly after 8.30am just three blocks from her mother's home in the Denver, Coloardo, suburb of Westminster.
She was walking to a park to meet friends before heading to school.
Her mother Sarah Ridgeway didn't realize Jessica hadn't shown up for class until Friday night.
Day 2, Saturday: Jessica's father Jeremiah Bryant flies to Denver from his home in Missouri.
More than 800 volunteers and police officers fan out across Westminster to look for Jessica. A police dive team searches a nearby reservoir.
Day 3, Sunday: The search in Westminster continues, but spreads 2,200 miles away after police receive a 'credible tip' from Maine about Jessica's disappearance.
Her backpack and water bottle are found about seven miles from her home in the nearby town of Superior.
Day 4, Monday: About 125 investigators from a dozen police agencies fan out and scour the open spaces around Westminster.
Security is tight and anxiety is high as students return to Witt Elementary School, where Jessica was headed when she was abducted.
Day 5, Tuesday: Searches of the surrounding area continue. Police release a home video and two new photos of Jessica in an attempt to better identify her for the public.
Hundreds of members of the community come together for a vigil as police reveal they have searched some 400 homes in their attempts to look for Jessica.
Day 6, Wednesday: Jessica's parent's are cleared of suspicion. Detectives say they think the fifth-grader was abducted.
Acting on what appears to be a tip, dozens of officers search an open space in Arvada, nine miles from Westminster. They find a body at 5pm, but cannot confirm it is Jessica.
Day 7, Thursday: The investigation of the body continues.
Police also continue to search areas near Jessica's home in Westminster.
Day 8, Friday: Police confirm the body belongs to Jessica and focus on finding her killer.
Police won't discuss what was found in the bag or test results on it but the items were found in the town of Superior, six miles from Jessica's home.
At about 5pm on Wednesday, dozens of officers flooded into Pattridge Park in Arvada, combing the foot of a hill, walking no more than five feet apart, reportedly working on a credible tip.
After the body was found, police covered it in a sheet and used the flood lights from a firetruck to illuminate the crime scene so they could work late into the night.
The focus of their search was an abandoned cabin that appeared to have been part of a former mining operation. The area is now a popular park where neighbors often come to hike, ride bicycles and fly model airplanes.
Several new housing developments are close to the park and a busy highway runs alongside it.
Police said they are not suspicious that Jessica's parents, who are divorced and fighting a custody battle over her, had any involvement in the disappearance.
'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 on Wednesday afternoon. 'The focus shifts to [an] unknown suspect.'
The girl's mother Sarah Ridgeway and Jeremiah Bryant, the girl's father, spoke out on Tuesday, denying any involvement in her disappearance.
'I know I didn't do anything. Everybody that's here knows I didn't do anything,' said Jessica Ridgeway's mother, Sarah, surrounded by relatives dressed in purple - her daughter's favorite color.
She added, 'Nobody in this room did anything to harm her or a tiny hair on her little head.'
Sarah Ridgeway was joined by ten family members, among them her ex-husband, Jeremiah Bryant, who said that when questioned by the FBI if his former spouse could have anything to do with the 10-year-old's disappearance, he said 'no.'
'I don't see how any parent could do something like that to their child,' Bryant added, according to Fox31.
Appearing composed for most of the 38-minute-long pubic statement, the girl's mother told a reporter that she understands that police need to conduct an investigation before they eliminate her from the list of potential suspects.
'I know it's something that has to get done,' she said. 'The have to get it out of there.'
On Tuesday, police released pictures and a home video of Jessica Ridgeway in the hope of jogging the memory of anyone who may have seen her since she vanished on the way to her school in Colorado five days ago.
Combing the area: Police spread out around this abandoned cabin on Wednesday afternoon after finding a body nearby
Help: Police say they have received hundreds of phone calls from people giving tips into her disappearance
Drawing attention to a small gap between her two front teeth and a sore on the top of her nose below where her glasses sit, they suggested she may not even still be wearing her spectacles.
The video was a self-made effort filmed by the 10-year-old as she tries to entice her puppy to sit still so it can be on camera with her.
The search for the youngster, who vanished a week ago, was delayed as her mother was unaware she had failed to make it to classes at Witt Elementary School.
When Jessica had not turned up by 10am, police called the girl's home and left a voicemail, but her mother, who works nights, was asleep at the time and didn’t get the message.
It was not until nearly eight hours later that the mother woke up. Sarah Ridgeway recalled that as soon as she heard her daughter failed to show in class, she knew at once that something was wrong.
Speaking out: Sarah Ridgeway, right, and Jeremiah Bryant, left, both said they had nothing to do with their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, going missing on her way to school a week ago
Sticking together: Jessica Ridgeway's family appeared dressed in her favorite color - purple - to issue the first public statement since her disappearance
Family problems: Jessica's mother and father have been locked in a custody dispute over the little girl after the couple separated
'Jessica loves school,' Sarah said. 'I checked some of the places I knew she wouldn’t be just to make sure. But I knew if she wasn’t at school, something was wrong.'
The girl lives with her mother, grandmother and aunt at 10768 Moore Street in the town of nearly 13,000.
‘Mom gets home about 7:30 a.m., gets her daughter ready for school, 8:30… sends her off,’ Materasso said. ‘The normal procedure is Jessica walks to a park, meets classmates and they, as a group, walk to school.’
But when the girl failed to make it to the meeting spot, her classmates went to school without her. At around 4:30pm, Ridgeway’s mother woke up and heard the message from police.
Bloodhounds and thermal equipment were used as a search party of family, friends and about 50 officers searched the area. After finding no trace of her, an Amber Alert was issued at 9:20pm.
Ridgeway recalled the morning her daughter went missing. The mother described her 10-year-old as a girl who could hardly wait to be a teenager, and who was craving independence.
Home: The girl lived with her mother, grandmother and aunt at Moore Street in the town of nearly 13,000
Ridgeway remembered hearing the alarm clock going off at 7:45am and seeing her daughter coming down the stairs, watching TV, eating a granola bar and walking out the front door.
‘It was like any other morning,’ Sarah said, breaking down in tears. ‘I watched her walk out the door. Her friend says she’s walking too. That was the last time I saw her.
‘I want her to walk back through that door. I need her to walk back through that door,’ she added.
Jessica’s family extended family described her as a giggly, bubbly girl who would light up the room and bring laughter with her jokes.
‘Jessica is the light of our life. She’s a special girl,’ her great aunt Gay Moore said. ‘She’s a special girl.’
The girl’s mother added, ‘[Jessica's] my rock. She's all of our rock. When you're down, she'll come around, make you laugh, hug [and] kiss [you or] dance.’
Hunt: Denis McLaughlin leads his search and rescue dog through a field of tall grass searching for Jessica Ridgeway near her home in Westminster on Monday
Desperate: The close-knit community in the Denver suburb had banded together to find the youngster
Meanwhile, FBI is investigating if Jessica’s disappearance may be linked to the abduction of an 11-year-old in Wyoming, some 500 miles away.
On Monday afternoon, a girl in Cody, Wyoming, was lured to a white SUV by a man who approached her and two friends. He told them that he was missing his black Labrador puppy and asked if they could help him find it, police told ABC.
One of the girls agreed to help him and climbed into the front seat of the vehicle, which then sped away.
‘[The girl] reported that when she approached the suspect vehicle, the suspect brandished a “pistol” and directed her to get in the front passenger seat of the vehicle,’ the Cody Police Department wrote in a report. ‘The suspect then drove the victim onto Carter Mountain where he sexually assaulted her.’