On October 5, 2012, just shy of one year ago, Jessica Ridgeway, ten, disappeared from her Westminster neighborhood while walking to school. The following week, her "not intact" remains were found in an open space area -- and before the month was out, seventeen-year-old Austin Sigg was arrested for the crime; see much of our previous coverage below. Sigg's trial was on the cusp of beginning, but now, proceedings shift immediately into the sentencing phase: He has pleaded guilty to all counts against him. Photos, videos and details below.
The search for Ridgeway was extensive, with entire communities pitching in to help shortly after she disappeared.
The discovery in Arvada of the girl's remains, and their condition, caused the investigation to shift from a rescue mission to a search for her killer.
Progress wasn't immediate, and the investigation was still ongoing during a massive memorial service for Ridgeway.
In the end, however, the break in the case came courtesy of Sigg's mother, who learned about the crime and convinced her son to turn himself in. He reportedly admitted that "I killed Jessica Ridgeway" in a 911 phone call on October 17.
As we've written, a custody report on Sigg identified him as a student at Arapahoe Community College. And while initial reports that he was studying mortuary science proved inaccurate (he had yet to complete preliminary coursework that would have allowed him to do so), he appears to have had a keen interest in the subject.
Prior to that, Sigg attended Witt Elementary (the same school to which Jessica was walking when she disappeared), Wayne Carle Middle School and Standley Lake High School -- and along the way, he took part in a Jeffco concert choir. Other interests reportedly included World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.
However, Sigg was said to have left the the high school during his eleventh grade year in favor of completing his GED and enrolling at Warren Tech, where he "won second place in the spring in a Health Occupations Students of America competition in the category of crime-scene investigation," according to the Denver Post.
Anecdotes about the young man vary widely. A young woman who described Sigg to 9News as her first boyfriend (they dated in middle school and high school) called him a sweet guy whom she first met at Warehouse: 180, a gathering place for Christian teens. Yes, he had a collection of swords and knives, she conceded, but he also loved music and gave her no indication of evil lurking within.
However, another woman who'd encountered Sigg and friends at Standley Lake told the station that they way he'd watched her "freaked me out."
The same can be said of a woman who'd escaped an abduction attempt at Ketner Lake the May before Ridgeway's murder -- a crime also connected to Sigg.
Subsequently, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office decided to charge Sigg as an adult. He initially pleaded not guilty, but on September 30, two days before his trial was slated to start, the DA's office says the teen's defense attorneys contacted prosecutors and told them their client wanted to change course.
Yesterday, before a courtroom packed with Jessica's relatives and loved ones, he confessed to the following charges:
• First Degree Murder after deliberation
• Two counts of Second Degree Kidnapping
• Sexual Assault on a Child
• Sexual Assault
• Two counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Child
• Sexual Exploitation of a Child
• Four Violent Crime Counts
• Attempted Second Degree Kidnapping (Ketner Lake victim)
• One Violent Crime Count (Ketner Lake victim)
In a statement, Jeffco DA Peter Weir stressed that no deal had been cut to goad Sigg into pleading guilty: "No charges were dismissed as part of a plea bargain. However, three counts of felony murder merge into the count of first degree murder after deliberation count. A person can only be convicted and sentenced to the murder of a person once."
Sigg's sentencing phase begins on November 18 and is expected to last two days. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after forty years.
Here's a look at Sigg's most recent mug shot, followed by a 7News report about yesterday's developments and much of our previous coverage.
Continue to see much of our previous coverage of the Austin Sigg investigation, including multiple photos and videos. Update, 8:41 a.m. November 28, 2012: Headlines noting that seventeen-year-old Austin Sigg has been charged as an adult in the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl, are a bit redundant, since documents to that effect were filed last month; see previous coverage below. But his court visit yesterday was significant for marking his transfer from a juvenile facility to adult jail -- a move that triggered a new mug shot of the accused teen killer.
As we've reported, Jessica was on her way to school on October 5 when she disappeared. After an extensive search, her body was found in an open space area the following week -- and reports say it was "not intact." At that point, the investigation shifted from a rescue operation into criminal mode. But the case was broken when Sigg's mother, Mindy, phoned police with information that led to her son's arrest for Ridgeway's murder, as well as an attempted abduction in May of an adult female jogger at Ketner Lake, near Sigg's home.
In all, Sigg, whose interests are said to include criminal investigations and forensics, faces seventeen counts -- and several weeks ago, Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey revealed that he would be charged as an adult owing to the seriousness of the offenses.
Making the decision easier: Sigg was only a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Nonetheless, he was housed in juvenile lock-up until that facility requested he be transferred to an adult jail. One reason, according to 9News, is the lack of a proper space in which to keep him away from other youthful prisoners, most of whom are being detained on far less serious charges. Indeed, the room he was in is said to have been designed to hold distraught or out-of-control youths for a few hours, not long term.
For that reason, Sigg is heading to Jefferson County's adult jail -- but he won't be mingling with the general population. Instead, he'll be in what's referred to as a "special housing unit" in which he'll be isolated from other prisoners for at least the next 52 days.
At that point, he'll turn eighteen -- old enough to join the rest of the inmates. But whether he will hasn't been determined, and probably won't be until he marks his birthday. Until then, he'll reportedly be escorted by a deputy everywhere he goes.
Talk about a creepy assignment.
Look below to see the new mug shot of Sigg, taken when his transfer to the adult jail was complete, as well as two videos -- the first a 9News piece about the latest developments, the second a Fox31 item from last month that got lost in the shuffle; it pertains in part to reports that Sigg was treated for an addiction to pornography.
Continue to read more of our coverage about the arrest and charging of Austin Sigg for the death of Jessica Ridgeway. Update, October 30, 12:05 p.m.: There was virtually no doubt that district attorney Scott Storey would charge Austin Reed Sigg, seventeen, as an adult in the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl. And so it has come to pass. Moments ago, the Colorado Judicial Department released a document confirming that Sigg has been charged as an adult with seventeen counts, including first-degree murder and sexual assault. See it below. The first eleven counts pertain to Ridgeway, who went missing on October 5 on the way to school; her body was found in an open-space area the following week. They include four variations on first-degree murder, plus three that fall under the category "crime of violence," two labeled as second-degree kidnapping, plus sexual assault on a child. The final count is robbery: Sigg is charged with stealing Ridgeway's backpack, which was later found in the community of Superior and proved to be an important clue leading to the arrest.
The other six charges relate to a May 28 assault attempt on a female jogger at Ketner Lake, not far from Jessica's home (or Sigg's) that investigators have linked to the Ridgeway case. Sigg is accused of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree kidnapping, attempted sexual assault and three "crime of violence" items, with one of them noting Sigg's alleged use of a dangerous weapon -- a "chemical mixture" intended to render the victim unconscious.
One other item of note: The charges were put forward under a procedure known as "direct file." As our Alan Prendergast wrote in a March post on the subject, "Colorado is one of only four states in which district attorneys have enormous discretion to prosecute offenders in the fourteen-to-seventeen age range in adult court without a judicial hearing on the issue" via direct file.
Look below to see the charging document, followed by our previous coverage.
Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 5:41 p.m. October 26: The revelations keep coming about the arrest of Austin Reed Sigg, seventeen, for the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who disappeared en route to school on October 5 and was found brutally murdered the following week. Now, information has surfaced noting the phone call that broke the case wide open was made by Sigg's own mother.
Sigg's mother, Mindy, was in court yesterday when the accused killer made his first appearance and reportedly sobbed throughout the proceedings -- and one can only imagine her conflicting emotions. Sources now reveal that she's the person who placed a call to police on Tuesday evening implicating her "child" (that's how he was referred to in the initial hearing, owing to his age).
Turns out Sigg was already on detectives' radar. According to 9News, Sigg was interviewed face to face during the investigation and the family home was even searched, although authorities didn't find enough evidence to make an arrest prior to his mother's outreach.
Mindy Sigg isn't the only mom to turn in offspring for a heinous crime this week. The Associated Press reports that New Jersey's Anita Saunders pointed the finger at her two sons, ages fifteen and seventeen, in the slaying of Autumn Pasquale, a twelve year old who'd been killed after visiting their home to secure parts for her bicycle.
Prosecutors at court yesterday also confirmed that they have DNA and what's termed as "overwhelming evidence," which they believe links Sigg to Jessica's slaying. He's also said to have confessed to the crime.
Other new info: Sigg used the user name "dohastvath" on Instagram and Xfire. His Instagram account mainly features photos of him or friends. Here's a self-portrait, with the other individual in the shot cropped out....
...and here's the most recent image posted: Also on view here is a screen capture of his Xfire profile, which confirms he has a fondness for Call of Duty. Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey isn't exactly leaving any suspense about whether or not Sigg will be charged as an adult -- a widely accepted supposition given that his name and photo were immediately released in the hours after his arrest despite his being under the age of eighteen. But because of his youth, the death penalty is off the table, and even if he's given a life sentence, he'll be eligible for parole after forty years behind bars.
From here on out, information will be scarce, as a gag order has been imposed on the case. But don't be surprised if more details continue to surface.
Here's a 9News report about yesterday's hearing. That's followed by previous coverage in the immediate aftermath of Sigg's arrest.
Continue for more of our coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 6:09 a.m. October 25: We're learning more about Austin Reed Sigg, seventeen, busted yesterday in the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who vanished en route to school on October 5 and was found dead the following week. Revelations thus far involve an interest in criminal investigation, references to forensics and mortuary science, alternately shocked and creeped-out acquaintances and a father with a criminal past.
The custody report on Sigg, on view below, identifies him as a student at Arapahoe Community College, where sources who spoke with the Denver Post say he was focused on studying mortuary science -- no doubt a terrifying thought for loved ones of Jessica, whose torso was found in an Arvada open space area.
Prior to that, 9News reports, Sigg attended Witt Elementary (the same school to which Jessica was walking when she disappeared), Wayne Carle Middle School and Standley Lake High School -- and along the way, he took part in a Jeffco concert choir. Other interests reportedly included World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.
However, Sigg is said to have left the the high school during his eleventh grade year in favor of completing his GED and enrolling at Warren Tech, where, the Post notes, he "worked toward a career in health occupations or forensic science and won second place in the spring in a Health Occupations Students of America competition in the category of crime-scene investigation."
Anecdotes about the young man vary widely. In another 9News piece, a young woman who describes Sigg as her first boyfriend (they dated in middle school and high school) calls him a sweet guy whom she first met at Warehouse: 180, a gathering place for Christian teens. (As you'll recall, Westminster police released a photo of a small wooden cross considered vital evidence in the inquiry into Jessica's slaying -- and Sigg can be seen wearing a necklace of some sort in his mug shot.) Yes, he had a collection of swords and knives, she concedes, but he also loved music and gave her no indication of evil lurking within. Not so a woman who told 9News about encountering Sigg and friends at Standley Lake. She remembered him watching her in a way that "freaked me out."
Meanwhile, Fox31 dug into the background of Robert Sigg, Austin's father -- and he's left quite a paper trail. The station documented a slew of arrests for offenses that include assault and battery, resisting/obstructing arrest, domestic violence, driving under the influence of drugs, being a habitual traffic offender and more. Robert, who was divorced from Austin's mother, Mindy, eleven years ago, is said to be the owner of Performance One Media in Centennial (the company's website is down, as is his personal one), and while he's reportedly been in Mexico on business, his Parker home is being targeted for police search.
One matter given relatively little attention amid the news of Austin Sigg's arrest: Although he's a juvenile, the Westminster police immediately released his name and photo. This actions suggest strongly that he'll be charged as an adult. Nonetheless, his age means the death penalty is off the table. The most severe sentence he can possibly receive is life in prison. And yes, he's reportedly confessed.
Look below to see a Robert Sigg booking photo and reports from Fox31 and 9News. Those items are followed by our previous coverage, including a larger look at Austin Sigg's mug shot, the custody report and more.
Continue for our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update: Moments ago, a brief press conference was staged to announce the arrest of a suspect in the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway, a ten-year-old Westminster girl who went missing on the way to school October 5. Austin Reed Sigg, seventeen, is being held on suspicion of multiple counts, including first-degree murder and kidnapping. Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said he hopes the arrest is a "significant step toward justice for Jessica."
After being introduced by Westminster police spokesman Trevor Materasso, Birk noted that "seventeen-year-old Austin Sigg is in our custody" before thanking the community "for the tremendous public outpouring of support," which he said gave law enforcement strength and encouragement during the investigative process. He added that the same was true for the Ridgeway family. He also had words of praise for other law enforcement agencies involved in the inquiry, be they local, state or federal, and folks who called in tips, which he described as "instrumental and very helpful."
According to Birk, "We notified the Ridgeway family this morning of the arrest. We hope and pray this arrest gives them some measure of closure in dealing with this horrible tragedy and the loss they have suffered.
"We hope in some way knowing an arrest has been made in this case will maybe cause our community to rest a little easier," he added.
Next to the microphone was Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, who echoed many of Birk's statements. He called the investigation a collaborative effort between assorted agencies that continued day and night from October 5 onward. But when it came to details, he was circumspect.
"Justice for Jessica is a process," Storey said, "and this is the beginning of that process.... I know you're yearning for a lot of information. We can't give you a lot of information. Affidavits in this case have been sealed.
"I can tell you that charges are forthcoming. Charges will be filed within the next couple of days, and then we start a different process.... This is a continuing investigation. Certainly, we are still focused on the integrity of the investigation, and then we'll go into the prosecution aspect of it."
Storey stressed that "Mr. Sigg has a presumption of innocence and we're going to honor that." He then deflected questions from the assembled reporters, including one that he couldn't answer because of Sigg's age; at seventeen, he is technically a juvenile, although he could be charged as an adult.
After Storey concluded his remarks, Materasso addressed the press. He pointed out that Sigg's first court appearance is scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow morning at Division 10 in Jefferson County Court. He also noted that Sigg is being held on suspicion of two first-degree murder counts, both associated with Jessica Ridgeway, plus a kidnapping charge. Two subsequent counts -- criminal attempts at murder and kidnapping -- are related to the May incident at Ketner Lake where an adult jogger narrowly avoided being abducted.
Materasso also said that a warrant is being served on a home in the Ketner Lake area and stressed that the investigation remains ongoing. If anyone has additional information about Sigg, the case or other incidents, he went on, they should phone the Ridgeway tip line at 303-658-4336.
Continue for our previous coverage. Update, 11:52 a.m. October 24: In advance of a 12:05 p.m. press conference about the arrest of a suspect in the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway, the Westminster Police Department has released the name and photo of the man now in custody. He is Austin Reed Sigg, age seventeen, of 10622 102nd Avenue in Westminster.
Here's a first look at his mug shot.
And here's his custody report:
More from our News archive: "Jessica Ridgeway predator search: Could killer have attended her memorial service?"
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