Update: More than 2,000 people attended a memorial service last night for Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who was found murdered in an Arvada open-space area a week ago today. Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk and Governor John Hickenlooper were among those in attendance. But could the killer also have made an appearance? One former FBI profiler says "yes."
"Whoever is responsible for that young girl's death could even show up at that ceremony," Clint Van Zandt told 9News. "So law enforcement is going to be there."
Plenty of officers were, joined by family, friends and loved ones of Jessica, many of them decked out in purple, her favorite color. Songs, photos and reflections were all part of the service, held at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada.
Meanwhile, those who've been gathering at the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page continue to share their grief and shock over this senseless act of violence. Here's one example:
She is now with the Lord and her family is here so we need to be there for them. Comfort and uphold when their heart is hurting at the horrible loss of their loving child. I'm a mother and grandmother and my heart is with u at this time. Love is a healing tool and God is there to cry out to.
And here's another:
What you have done for this little girl is more than I could ever have imagined. I know you've been there since the beginning and have tirelessly worked to aid the search and now for justice. I think you are an amazing woman and my heart goes out to you as well as the family of little Jessica. Take credit where credit is deserved! You are a wonderful person and an upstanding citizen! I have kept you in my thoughts through this journey and I just wanted to let you know what an amazing person you truly are.
Tips continue to pour in to law enforcement -- literally thousands of them. Investigators are currently pouring through them, with Birk noting at the service that his colleagues and many others are working "tirelessly, diligently, and we are committed until we achieve justice for Jessica."
Look below to see an excerpt from the service, followed by our previous coverage.
Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 5:52 a.m. October 16: As the hunt continues for what Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk describes as a "predator in our community," plans are being finalized for tonight's memorial service in honor of ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, found murdered in an Arvada open space area last week. Other events are scheduled as well, with the goal of raising money, awareness or both. Meanwhile, Denver officials are promoting child safety. Get the latest details below.
The Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page, which had been the online nexus for the latest info about the search for the girl, who disappeared on the way to school on Friday, October 5, has transitioned into a place to learn about various remembrances. Here's the basic information about tonight's memorial service:
Also included is info about assorted benefits being staged in Jessica's name. Here are the details about a tattoo and purple ribbon fundraiser tomorrow.... ...and a memorial car cruise slated for this weekend. There's also this ominous reminder for one of the page's members, posted last night:
I Just Want To Remind Everybody That This Is Not Over. One Of My Daughter's Friends Was Approached This Morning At Memorial Park. He Was Asking Her If She Would Like To Go For A Ride In His Car She Freaked Out And Ran & From What I Hear He Chased Her For A Few. She Ultimately Got Away. He Is Described As Having A Goatee, He Looked To Be In His Thirties And Around Six Feet In Height. He Was Wearing A Black Hoodie & Green Shirt. Please Don't Let Your Children Walk To School Anymore. It Might Be The Same Guy But It Might Also Be A Copycat. Again Please Take Your Children To School If They Walk.
Messages like these are reenforced by the Denver Department of Safety, which yesterday shared safety tips from the Denver Police Department "in light of the recent tragedy in the City of Westminster." The list includes the following:
• Teach your children not to talk with strangers.
• Never approach a motor vehicle for someone asking directions. Adults don't need directions from KIDS!
• Never get into a car with someone you don't know, for any reason.
• Never take candy from a stranger or approach a stranger to see his nice puppy dog in the car.
• If a stranger does approach your child, tell them to remember the license plate number of the motor vehicle and to report this information to you immediately.
• Create a walking school bus. This term refers to a walking group of children walking to or from school with one or more adults.
• Never play in deserted areas -- such as empty playgrounds, parks, construction sites or dumps.
• Teach your child how to use the telephone and how to call the police, 911 if available.
Additional resources can be found at SafetyCops.com.
Also online is JessicaRidgeway.com, another site raising funds for the family. It includes the following paragraph:
We are saddened by the discovery of the murder of Jessica Ridgeway. The community has given so much support and it is greatly appreciated. Words can not express the gratitude that Jessica's Family and Friends have for the Community, the media for getting this story out, Westminster Police Department, the FBI, and other local and federal law enforcement.
Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 5:56 a.m. October 15: Since the heartrending confirmation Friday afternoon that a body found in Arvada last Wednesday had been identified as missing Westminster ten year old Jessica Ridgeway (see our previous coverage below), plenty of new information has cropped up in the search for what Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk described as "a predator in our community." Continue to get more details.
On Saturday, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office circulated information about a possible child abduction in Golden, a community just south of Pattridge Park, the open space area where Jessica's body was found. Included was a photograph of the vehicle driven by the suspect, who described as being around twenty years of age, with longer brown. Here's that shot.
Soon thereafter, the young man turned himself in to authorities in order to clear himself from suspicion. According to him, he'd approached a thirteen-year-old boy to get information about his former girlfriend, not to snatch the child -- but because of the concerns raised by Jessica's case, his actions were misinterpreted as a possible kidnapping attempt.
Meanwhile, the Arvada Police Department released a pair of sketches involved in previous child abduction reports -- one from last year, the other in September. Here's a look at the sketches and accompanying descriptions, as shared by the Missing Cases Facebook page:
After the sketches' appearance, the Westminster Police Department issued a press release stating that at this time, the WPD "cannot make any connection between the sketch[es] and the Jessica Ridgeway case."
Yesterday, meanwhile, hundreds of people visited a memorial that sprang up in the vicinity of where Jessica's remains were discovered, as reported by 9News. And an online memorial to Jesscia is now visible at Memento.com. The background music on the site is "Jessica," a song by Regina Spektor that includes the lines, "Jessica, wake up..../We must get older now/So please wake up."
Here's an image from the site:
If you have any information about the Jessica Ridgeway case, phone the tip line at 303-658-4336.
Look below to see a 9News report about the memorial visits and a clip of Regina Spektor's "Jessica."
Continue to read our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 4:24 p.m. October 12: Moments ago, Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk confirmed what Jessica Ridgeway's family, friends and loved ones, as well as people throughout the community and beyond, have been dreading: The body discovered in Arvada on Wednesday has been positively identified as the ten-year-old, who's been missing since last Friday. And the words that followed were equally chilling. "There is a predator in our community," he said.
Even before Birk spoke, the turnout for the 4 p.m. news conference -- which included Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey and Jim Yacone, special agent in charge of the FBI's Denver division -- suggested that the announcement would be significant. So, too, was the resolve voiced by Birk and the other speakers. They noted that hundreds of homes and vehicles have already been searched, and a majority of the 1,500 tips received to date have been or are being investigated. Moreover, dozens of law enforcement agencies have worked tirelessly on the case, and their efforts will only ramp up now.
As Birks put it, the focus of law enforcement efforts has shifted from a search for Jessica to a mission to bring her justice.
Update, 5:20 a.m. October 12: It was another agonizing day of waiting and not knowing for the family, friends and loved ones of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who's been missing since Friday. Authorities still have not identified a body found in Arvada Wednesday -- one that a police spokesman has said was "not intact." Meanwhile, the search continues, as the FBI urges people to keep an eye out for what is now explicitly being called a kidnapper.
Police professionals and volunteers who've been searching for Jessica throughout the weekend, and the week that followed, didn't cone upon the human remains discovered at Pattridge Park, an open space area in Arvada. Instead, workers picking up trash found body parts.
Since then, officials have been pouring over the land across the area, looking for any clue that might lead them to the person or persons responsible for this terrible act.
Because the body has not yet been identified, and probably won't be until this afternoon at the earliest, the searches being conducted for Ridgeway are ongoing -- and reports continue to come in from around the country about possible sightings. This one from Maine is an example.
Meanwhile, the folks at the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page are doing their best to maintain optimism. One link to BringJessicaHome.com, a website selling T-shirts and the like, is accompanied by the note, "Proceeds will go into a fund set up by Jessica's family to help her when she gets home!"
There's also this:
We posted a couple of days ago that if you have put a poster, picture, ribbon up outside your home that we would love to have you send us a picture, as well as if you see billboards, or company signs with her information. We LOVE to show Jessica and her family how much love and support she has as well as what areas all over the US are covered vs where we need her face posted. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and just include the city and state.
In the meantime, Dave Joly, the face of the local FBI branch, held a news conference in conjunction with a release offering tips about how people may be able to identify Jessica's abductor. The complete release is below, along with Fox31 coverage of Joly's remarks and a closer look at Pattridge Park.
The FBI Denver Division and FBI resources from around the country continue to support the Westminster Police Department in their current investigation; with personnel, an evidence response team, a specialized dog search group, members of the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Team, and our Behavioral Analysis Unit.
Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Team
The FBI's CARD Team consists of regionally based special agents selected for their specialized experience and training in child abduction investigations. This is a national resource that deploys to provide case specific support to FBI Field Offices and local law enforcement.
Behavioral Analysis Unit 3 (crimes against children):
The mission of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) is to provide behaviorally-based operational support for complex and time-sensitive cases. Resources are focused on crimes perpetrated against child victims, including abductions, mysterious disappearances of children, homicides, and sexual victimization.
The FBI BAU recommendations are as follows:
• Often, someone in the community will unknowingly be associated with the offender of the crime, and may be in a position to observe behavioral changes in that person. They will recognize the changes, and may even question the person about it, but may not relate the changes to that person's involvement in the crime.
• Immediately following the incident, he may miss work. The absence will be sudden and unplanned. He may either be a "no show" or he may offer a plausible excuse such as illness, death in the family, car trouble, etc.
• He may miss scheduled appointments/commitments and be unaccounted for during this period. These appointments/commitments may include such things as medical appointments, meetings with a probation officer, prior commitment to a friend or family member, drug test, etc.
• He may suddenly leave town, either with no explanation or with some plausible reason.
• This individual may express an intense interest in the status of this investigation and pay close attention to the media. However, some offenders may quickly turn off media accounts or try to redirect conversations concerning the victims or their families.
• There may be changes in the usual consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.
• He may make a change in his appearance or alter something to prevent identification, such as changing the look of his vehicle, clean or discard his vehicle.
Federal Kidnapping Act
Following the Lindbergh kidnapping, the United States Congress adopted a federal kidnapping statute--commonly known as the Lindbergh Law 18 U.S.C. § 1201 -- which was intended to let federal authorities pursue kidnappers.
Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update 12:51 p.m. October 11: The latest update from the Westminster Police Department in regard to the search for Jessica Ridgeway is a shocking one.
Spokesman Trevor Materasso says the identification of a body found in Arvada yesterday is being delayed because it was "not intact."
What exactly that means hasn't been specified. But at this point, Ridgeway's family is reportedly being kept up to date with developments. Authorities hope to identify the Arvada body by Friday afternoon.
In the meantime, the investigation continues, and so does the uncertainty. Continue for our previous coverage.
Update, 6:56 a.m. October 11: Folks who thought we'd know at this writing whether a body discovered in an Arvada open space area was Jessica Ridgeway, a missing ten-year-old Westminster girl, were no doubt surprised by the just-concluded press briefing on the case. And brief it was: Westminster Police Department spokesman Trevor Materasso took no questions and left the matter of the body's identity unaddressed during his minute or so before the mic.
In an announcement that got underway at 6:45 a.m., fifteen minutes later than scheduled, Materasso noted that authorities would continue to process the territory where the body was discovered yesterday -- Pattridge Park open space area in Arvada -- with road closures nearby to continue. He added that searchers would be combing some open space areas in the vicinity of Westminster as well. Moreover, he advised the media to keep an eye out on Twitter for information about future news conferences and announcements. And that was pretty much it.
The results leave plenty of unknowns lingering. But at least the worst possibilities are yet to be confirmed. Continue to read our previous coverage.
Update, 5:35 a.m. October 11: Last night, police searching for Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who's been missing since Friday (see our previous coverage below), announced that a body had been found in an open space area of Arvada. Spokespersons have not identified the remains as Ridgeway at this writing, but a news conference is scheduled for 6:30 a.m., at which point we expect to learn more about this terrible case.
The body was found in an area known as Pattridge Park; it's not far from Highway 93, north of Golden. Helicopters affiliated with CBS4 and other news stations caught images of officers processing what appears to be a crime scene.
During yesterday's 7:30 p.m. news conference, Westminster Police Department public-information officer Trevor Materasso (one of the best in the business, in our experience) was careful not to hint at the identity of the body, or to provide any specific information. "At this time we're unable to make any connection to the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway," he said.
Nonetheless, Twitter immediately blew up after the press conference, with thousands of people not only in Colorado but across the country as a whole expressing their hope that the body doesn't turn out to be Ridgeway, while noting that a tragedy for some family has clearly taken place.
The folks at the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page are doing their best to keep the faith. There are numerous posts overnight about keeping up the search and continuing to pray. But one person has shared a "stranger danger" tip sheet assembled by the Westminster PD, and another left this heartfelt message:
As we sit in Command waiting to hear anything, our precious babies 3, 4 and 5 year olds are sweetly praying with each other for Jessica to come home safely and quickly. From the mouths of babes. If this doesn't bring a tear to your eyes....
We'll update this post with any news from the press conference, slated to get underway less than an hour from now. In the meantime, here's the latest CBS4 report, followed by the "stranger danger" release:
Continue to read our previous coverage. Update, 5:56 a.m. October 10: Yesterday, loved ones of Jessica Ridgeway spoke about the ten-year-old Westminster girl who vanished this past Friday; see our previous coverage below. The press conference that resulted is heartrending. At one point, Sarah Ridgeway, Jessica's mom, says through tears, "I need her to walk back through that door." Continue to see this moment and get the latest details -- including a possible link to a child disappearance in Wyoming.
The Westminster Police Department has been energetically tweeting photos of Jessica; click here to see more than a dozen of them, including these three:
As one tweet points out, Jessica's unique facial features include a gap in her front teeth and a sore at the top of her nose.
The department also thanks everyone who's been tweeting the hashtag #jessicaridgeway. "Make every share count," notes another tweet.
Meanwhile, the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page documents more incredible efforts by volunteers. One person oversaw the distribution of 6,500 flyers yesterday, while another raised $1,200 to have 3,000 colored flyers printed up.
Last night, two separate vigils were held in Westminster, her hometown, and Superior, where Jessica's backpack was found, with the latter drawing a crowd reportedly in the hundreds -- an indication that the concern of the community hasn't flagged even though Jessica has been missing for five days.
A national audience is now following the case, as indicated by the Good Morning America report from Tuesday on view below -- and the investigation has gone beyond state lines, too. As noted by the Denver Post, the FBI is looking for possible connections between Jessica's case and an abduction of a girl in Cody, Wyoming on Monday. That girl, age eleven, was released later in the day and found safe.
Anyone with information about Jessica's whereabouts is encouraged to phone the tip line at 303-658-4336.
Look below to see raw video of the Ridgeway family press conference courtesy of Fox31, plus the aforementioned Good Morning America package. That's followed by our previous coverage.
Continue for our previous coverage of the search for Jessica Ridgeway. Update, 8:36 a.m. October 9: As the search continues for Jessica Ridgeway, a new video has just been released showing the ten-year-old Westminster girl in the sort of candid, casual moment that can only energize the police officers, agents and others working on this case. See it below, followed by our previous coverage, which provides information from the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page about volunteer efforts and a pair of events slated to take place tonight.
Update, 5:48 a.m. October 9: The search is ongoing for Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who was last seen on Friday; see our original coverage below for more details. And while there have been no new breakthroughs since the discovery of what's thought to be Jessica's backpack, law enforcers and volunteers are still hopeful she'll be found safe -- a message that will be reenforced at two community events slated for tonight.
As we've reported, Jessica was last seen leaving for Witt Elementary School on Friday morning. Witt staffers left a message for Jessica's mom, Sarah, at about 10 a.m., letting her know that Jessica never arrived -- but because Sarah works nights and sleeps during the day, she didn't receive the message until about 4:30 p.m. At that point, police were informed, after which an Amber Alert was issued. A massive search in the Westminster area was expanded after Sunday, when it was announced that a backpack containing a water bottle with her name on it was found in Superior, more than six miles away from where she was last seen.
The latest? According to CBS4, about 125 officers from approximately a dozen law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are taking part in the continuing search for Jessica. DNA evidence has been collected from the backpack, as well as from inside Jessica's home, for comparison purposes.
Meanwhile, volunteers are being solicited not to conduct the search itself, but to put up flyers of Jessica throughout the metro area. According to the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page, the online information center for the search, a volunteer distribution command post has been established at Westminster's American Furniture Warehouse location, at 9410 Wadsworth Parkway. Another item notes that the command post needs generators, utility extension cords, trash cans and outdoor lights.
Additional advice in regard to getting the word out can be found in this message:
If you have not already done so, please consider sending an e-mail blast to your entire contacts list.
Simply compose a new message and rather than click on the "to:" click on the BCC (so not everyone sees who all it was sent to for privacy) then select add all your e-mail contacts.
A sample message can be:
Jessica Ridgeway has been missing from Westminster Colorado since 10-5 when she left for school, heading towards the park to meet up with friends she usually walks with but never showed to the park or to school. An Amber Alert has been issued and police are desperate for clues that may lead to Jessica.
On Saturday they found a back pack they have reason to believe belongs to Jessica.
Tonight, two vigils are scheduled for Jessica -- one in Westminster, the other in Superior. Here's a poster providing details:
Anyone with information about Jessica's whereabouts is encouraged to phone the tip line at 303-658-4336.
Look below to see a video from a Monday press conference courtesy of CBS4 and another photo from the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page.
Continue for our previous coverage of the search for Jessica Ridgeway. Original post, 6:07 a.m. October 8: Throughout the weekend, police officers and volunteers combed the Westminster area near where ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway vanished on Friday.
Then, yesterday, a backpack believed to be Jessica's was discovered in Superior, more than six miles from where she was last seen -- a development that continues to spread via social media.
The Westminster Police Department was notified at around 4:30 p.m. on October 4 that Jessica was missing. She was last seen leaving her home at around 8:30 a.m. to walk to her school, Witt Elementary -- a journey of about 1.3 miles that typically takes her to Chelsea Park, where she tends to rendezvous with classmates also headed to classes.
Turns out Jefferson County Public Schools had made a phone notification at around 10 a.m. that Jessica never showed up, but her mother didn't receive it until late afternoon, because she works at night and sleeps during the day.
Jessica is part of a custody dispute involving her father, who lives in Missouri. However, as the Denver Post reports, his presence at a custody hearing in that state on Friday has established a powerful alibi, and at this time, Westminster officers don't think a family member was involved in her disappearance.
Around 9:15 p.m. Friday, an Amber Alert was sent out via the usual network. Television broadcasts were interrupted and message boards throughout the area flashed details about a possible abduction. Meanwhile, police conducted searches of trails, parks and open spaces near Jessica's home, as well as notifying nearly 13,000 residents via telephone to keep an eye out for her. In addition, Jefferson County Public Schools let faculty and parents involved with Witt Elementary know about the situation.
In addition, a Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page was established to serve as an online nexus of information, and the #JessicaRidgeway Twitter hashtag was publicized as well.
By Saturday, more than 800 people had reportedly volunteered to search for the little girl, joining law enforcement working with bloodhounds.
Continue to see a map of where the backpack was discovered, the latest Facebook updates and more photos of Jessica Ridgeway. Tips flooded in -- more than 100 of them, says a Westminster police spokeswoman -- but nothing of large significance was discovered until Sunday morning. And the clue turned up in an unexpected place.
A child's backpack was found in Superior's Rock Creek subdivision, 6.2 miles from where Jessica vanished; it contained a water bottle with her name on it. Here's a map of the area where it was located.
Police immediately began to search nearby, but there's been no breakthrough since then.
Overnight, the Westminister police posted the following on the Jessica Facebook page:
Police urge parents in Rock Creek to talk to their kids about knowledge of backpack. Kids may be able to shed addt.l light #jessicaridgeway
This note also went online:
Get some rest folks. We are coming Jessica, hold tight! God, please keep her safe until we get there! God bless you all and thank you!
And then there's this:
Jessica's candle! Please share and if you would change your profile picture to her candle. How many profiles can we get to see her face and read her description!! The more faces who see her the more eyes that are looking!
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Anyone with information about Jessica's whereabouts is encouraged to phone the tip line at 303-658-4336.
Look below to see more photographs of Jessica Ridgeway.
More from our News archive: "Photos: Avery Workman found safe -- but was she a runaway or drugging victim?"