Update:Yesterday afternoon, Jesse Paul Speer, a photographer with Colorado ties who's accused of kidnapping and assaulting an eleven-year-old Cody, Wyoming, girl, waived his right to fight extradition during a brief court hearing in Montana yesterday. Meanwhile, new information about the crime is accompanied by the just-released fugitive complaint, which details the charges against Speer. See the documents and more below.
On Monday, October 8, as we've detailed in our previous coverage, on view below in its entirety, the girl in question was with friends in Cody when a man in an SUV pulled up and asked for help finding a lost puppy. She climbed into the vehicle with him, then disappeared, prompting the issuance of an Amber Alert. That evening, a group of hunters unaware of the incident spotted the girl walking in a remote area and picked her up, at which point she revealed that she'd been abducted.
In the beginning, investigators considered the possibility that the Wyoming kidnapping might have been related to the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl whose body was found in an open-space area on Wednesday. At this time, however, there's no known connection between the crimes, even though Speer has lived and worked in Colorado at various times in recent years.
The fugitive complaint against Speer, filed in Montana's 18th District Court in Gallatin County, lists the accusations as kidnapping, aggravated assault and use of a firearm in violation of the laws of the State of Wyoming. It also contends that "the defendant has fled from justice." The accompanying warrant from the Fifth Judicial District in Park County, Wyoming, elaborates on the kidnapping charge, maintaining that Speer "did unlawfully remove another from the vicinity where she was at the time of the removal, with the intent to facilitate the commission of a felony...and/or did unlawfully remove another from the vicinity where she was at the time of removal, with the intent to inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another."
Marijuana Deals Near You
Meanwhile, the Billings Gazette features a chilling depiction of the crime, based on information gleaned in part from yesterday's news conference, featuring Cody police chief Perry Rockvam.
After the girl climbed into the vehicle, the paper reports, Speer allegedly drove her to a nearby church and bound her hands with rope, all the while insisting that he wasn't going to hurt her.
He's said to have contradicted this claim when she didn't keep her head down to his satisfaction, striking her in the back of the skull with his pistol. Still, she managed to look up often enough to see and recall the areas through which they traveled, and was able to share the details with investigators.
The man subsequently drove to a rural area on Cody's outskirts, at which point he assaulted the girl, police maintain. The Gazette references charging documents that say the victim saw photos of naked young girls in the vehicle before a cloth bag was placed over her head.
A short time later, the man allegedly found a stopping place, untied the girl, walked her away from the car and told her to count to fifty as he split.
Not far away, Speer is said to have ditched the cargo carrier on the top of the vehicle, presumably to change its appearance. However, the carrier was found by a logger and became an important clue that eventually helped lead to his capture in the Montana community of Belgrade.
Look below to see a silent video of Speer in court, followed by the fugitive complaint.
Continue for our previous coverage, including photos and video. Update, 10:52 a.m. October 15: As expected, Jesse Paul Speer has been charged in the abduction of an eleven-year-old girl in Cody, Wyoming last week.
Speer is a professional photographer with strong Colorado ties, but thus far, he has not been linked to the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who disappeared days before the Cody incident.
As we detail in previous coverage on view below, the FBI and local law enforcement planned a 10 a.m. news conference to announce the name of the man taken into custody over the weekend in relation to the abduction of the girl, who was lured into an SUV after the driver claimed to be searching for a lost puppy. However, information filtered out in advance suggesting that Speer had been arrested on a Wyoming warrant.
Speer's connection to the crime was confirmed at the just-completed news conference. According to KTVQ-TV, Speer has been accused of kidnapping, aggravated assault and use of a firearm in violation of Wyoming law. He's expected to appear in a Bozeman, Montana courtroom this afternoon; he was captured in the Montana community of Belgrade on Saturday.
Much of the news conference was hosted by Cody, Wyoming police chief Perry Rockvam, who talked at length about the importance of video that captured the SUV allegedly driven by Speer; officers were able to track the vehicle throughout his drive out of town. He also spoke about the abduction as being another series incident to take place in Cody of late, and suggested that in some ways, the town has suffered a loss of innocence.
See our previous coverage below.
Update, 6:32 a.m. October 15: While no suspects have been taken into custody regarding the murder of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl, an arrest has been made in another shocking area case -- the abduction, sexual assault and subsequent release of an eleven year old in Cody, Wyoming. A press conference is slated for later this morning, at which point the FBI is expected to announce that Jesse Paul Speer, forty, has been jailed in relation to the crime.
As we reported below, the eleven year old was with friends on Monday, October 8, when a man in an SUV approached them and asked for help finding a missing puppy. The girl got into the vehicle, then vanished for hours, prompting an Amber Alert. Later that evening, a group of hunters saw the girl walking along a roadway in an extremely remote area. After picking her up, she revealed that she'd been abducted, and authorities subsequently said she'd been sexually assaulted. The photo above is a pixilated version of a shot featured in the Amber Alert.
Early last week, speculation surfaced that the Cody abduction and the Jessica Ridgeway case might be related. But while the same Denver FBI office investigated both offenses, authorities there subsequently stressed that there is no known connection between them.
As the Wyoming inquiry gathered momentum, a sketch of a possible suspect was released. Here it is:
Then, late Sunday afternoon, the FBI announced that a suspect had been arrested in the community of Belgrade, Montana. No further details were released in advance of a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. this morning at Cody City Hall, 1338 Rumsey Avenue. But the Montana Independent Record reports that a man named Jesse Paul Speer was booked into the Gallatin County Detention Facility 45 minutes shy of midnight on Saturday. According to records accessed by the paper, the agency that arrested Speer was the FBI, and he was slapped with a $2 million bond based on a Wyoming warrant.
As noted by the Independent Record, local officials wouldn't say whether Speer had been busted for kidnapping and assaulting the Cody girl.
Meanwhile, Wyoming's KRTV shared the following Facebook photo of Speer. As you can see, the image bears a resemblance to the sketch released earlier:
The Denver Post reports that Speer, a professional photographer, had numerous connections to Colorado, "including homes and and photography businesses in Colorado Springs, Woodland Park , Dubois, Manitou Springs and Estes Park." He also took photos for the Estes Park Trail Gazette and that community's Chamber of Commerce.
On his personal Facebook page, Speer describes himself in the following bio that also appears on the website Jessespeer.com:
The images I see through my camera are meditations on found beauty within the world around me. And though I appreciate the inherent beauty of things, I am more interested in the happenstance discovery of a beauty that is more elusive, unassuming and ephemeral. I seek out opportunities to make photographs within these fleeting moments of solitary perception.
I explore the aesthetics of the accessible landscapes that surround me (of both grand and diminutive scale), cultivating a more acute awareness of the depths of true beauty that wait below the surface of things. The selective vision of a camera viewfinder intensifies this experience. The exposures I bring home are a means of dwelling in the refuge of imagination found within simple moments of beauty.
My photographic efforts frequently take place in the wild and rural places of the Rocky Mountains and western United States. I find inspiration in both the quiet rural road and the lonely wilderness trail. Yet, I am most captivated by an addictive mix of solitude and solace that comes from my interactions within nature. My portfolios feature favorite moments and meditations from these places.
I have a few simple tendencies that guide my methodology. I use the stripped down language of black and white whenever possible, and color when it is necessary. I always work with a palette of available light. The aesthetics of my work are created largely by my choices at the time of exposure, rather than by software. I rely mostly on digital SLR cameras and telephoto lenses -- tools that allow for expressive and responsive thinking within the fleeting moments I photograph.
If you'd like to learn more about my work, I encourage you to ask questions.
His most recent Facebook post, accompanied by a photo of Grand Teton National Park, appeared on September 28. It reads:
I'm hitting the road. This is my last photo post for a few weeks. Vacation time is upon me, and I'm taking to the road with a camera in hand -- and no particular destination in mind. See you soon ... and thank you for your continued support of my work!
Look here for future updates on these developments.
Note: A reference to a blog item in an earlier version of this post has been removed; it was written by someone else with the same name. We apologize for the error.
Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos and video. October 12 update below: The same Denver FBI office that is investigating the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl, is also looking into the abduction of an eleven year old in Cody, Wyoming, who was later released. At this point, the FBI doesn't think the two crimes are related, despite apparent similarities. But while clues are scarce in the Ridgeway case, investigators have a big one in the Wyoming matter -- footage of what may be the kidnapper's vehicle. See the photos below.
As we've reported, the Cody girl was with friends on Monday when a man in a white SUV asked for help finding a lost puppy. She went with him, then vanished for hours. That evening, after an Amber Alert was issued in her name (which we're withholding), hunters driving in a remote area saw her walking along the side of a roadway. She later revealed she'd been sexually assaulted. Get more details in our previous coverage, on view below in its entirety.
The latest development: Law enforcers have narrowed down the make and model of the SUV believed to have been used in the kidnapping. They're looking for a 2004 or 2005 white, four-door Toyota 4-Runner, model SR-5, with a silver-over-black cargo box on the roof -- although there's suspicion that the latter may have been removed.
Update, 2:35 p.m. October 12: A release from the FBI received moments ago reveals that the aforementioned cargo box, a Thule carrier, definitely isn't on the suspect vehicle anymore -- because local authorities have recovered it and are processing it as evidence.
Here are three looks at the vehicle with the carrier still attached.
Investigators stress that the suspect should be considered armed and dangerous; the girl told her rescuers that he'd pulled a gun and struck her with it. As such, anyone who spots the vehicle should not approach it. Rather, they should immediately contact law enforcement either in Cody (307-527-8700) or at the FBI national tip line at (1-800-225-5324).
Continue to see our previous coverage, including a Wyoming news report containing a description of the suspect. Original post, 11:50 a.m. October 11: At this writing, we haven't received an update about the search for Jessica Ridgeway, a Westminster ten year old who's been missing since Friday, or the identity of a body found in Arvada yesterday. Moments ago, however, the local FBI office, which is assisting in the Ridgeway investigation, sent out an alert on another abduction of a young girl -- an eleven year old from Cody, Wyoming, who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted before being released on Monday. Is there a connection? Here are the details.
At 4:33 p.m. on Monday, according to a Cody Police Department news release, officers received a report from another eleven year old that she and friends had been approached by a man 45 minutes earlier at the city's Park County Complex, at 1501 Stampede Avenue. The man had claimed he needed help finding a missing black Labrador puppy and asked the girls if they could help him. At that point, one of the girls agreed and climbed into the passenger side of the vehicle -- a white SUV with two seats up front and a mattress in the back that suggested he had been living out of it. The SUV drove away with the girl and hadn't returned.
A couple of hours later, an Amber Alert was issued for the girl. She was identified by name, and the alert included a recent photo. Because she is a sexual-assault victim, however, we're leaving the name out and have altered the photo to protect her identity.
About an hour and a half later, the girl was found under circumstances that the Cody Enterprise describes as nothing short of a miracle. The newspaper features an interview with Shane Larsen, who'd been out hunting with a buddy and their two sons in a remote area near the end of Carter Mountain Access Road -- approximately four miles from the nearest house -- when they saw a young girl walking in the barrow along the roadway. She was clad in clothing far too light for the approximately thirty degree temperature.
The group, which knew nothing about the abduction or Amber Alert, offered to give her a lift and she gladly accepted -- and before long, she revealed that she'd been kidnapped. The man had eventually let her go, she said, but not before doing terrible things. Larsen doesn't make reference to the sexual assault in the Enterprise article, but he notes that the abductor had pulled out a gun with which he struck the girl, and put a bag over her head.
"She also told us that at one point, they got into a physical struggle, and she kicked him in the nose, and made his nose bloody," Larsen told the paper. "I think she had amazing survival instincts."
In addition, the girl was able to give authorities a detailed description of her assailant. In recent days, Colorado law enforcers have mentioned the similarities in the Cody case and the Jessica Ridgeway disappearance, and while the FBI release explicitly states that agents don't know of a link between the crimes at present, the timing of its appearance will likely spark more speculation.
Look below for a report on the abduction from Wyoming's K2-TV, followed by the FBI release. Both feature a description of the kidnapper.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The Cody Police Department, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, and the FBI are actively working a child abduction investigation that occurred in Cody, Wyoming.
Investigators are asking for the public's assistance in identifying an unknown subject responsible for the abduction of a juvenile female from the Park County Complex in Cody, Wyoming.
The juvenile has since been found and reunited with her family.
The subject enticed the juvenile into his vehicle by asking for assistance in locating his missing pet. The subject had a weapon in his vehicle and should be considered armed and dangerous.
The subject is described as a white male, approximately 55-60 years of age, 6'0 feet tall, 185 - 200 lbs., with short strawberry blonde or white hair, and well-trimmed facial hair.
Last seen wearing a brown shirt, blue jeans, and a tan baseball cap.
The subject was driving a white colored vehicle, possibly an SUV, with grey leather type front seats, the back seat and luggage area were set up with bedding type materials.
The subject may be living out of his vehicle. A black and red backpack along with a case of bottled water was tied to the top of the vehicle.
Anyone having information on this case is asked to contact the Cody Police Department at (307) 527-8700, or the FBI national tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) to report information to investigators in this case. We are asking anyone who may observe this individual or the described vehicle to contact law enforcement immediately and not approach this person.
While the FBI Denver Division is actively involved in two child abduction investigations, one in Colorado and one in Wyoming, currently we do not believe these crimes are related.
More from our News archive: "Jessica Ridgeway search update: No announcement of body ID at press briefing."