Colorado police provide update on search for Jessica Ridgeway - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Body confirmed as belonging to missing Jessica Ridgeway

WESTMINSTER, CO (KCTV) -

Police confirmed Friday afternoon that a dismembered body found earlier this week belongs to 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.

"With a great deal of sorrow in my heart, I regret to inform you that the body that was found in Arvada has been positively identified as Jessica Ridgeway, the girl missing from Westminster," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said. "The family has been notified. We can't begin to comprehend the grief they are going through."

Jessica was abducted while walking to school a week ago.

"We want to stress that we recognize there is a predator at large in our community," Birk said. "I want the community to know that we are doing everything we can within our power to apprehend that individual."

Officials say the priority has changed from "the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica," and arresting her killer.

"We have eliminated the family. And we are looking for an abductor at this point," FBI spokesman Dave Joly said.

Officials offered condolences to Jessica's family and friends.

"This is not the closure we wanted," said Jessica's great uncle, Larry Moss, who lives in Independence, MO. "We were hanging onto every glimmer of hope. We were hoping that she would make it home safe."

He described himself as relieved to know what happened to Jessica. He and other family members are working to travel to Colorado for her funeral.

The focus now is finding the "sick monster who would do this to a child," Moss said.

"I would give my right leg to have him brought justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no price on it," Moss said.

Jessica's body was found Wednesday, but the identification of the body was delayed because it was not intact. DNA was used to identify her.

Workers picking up trash in Arvada found Jessica's remains.

Jessica disappeared a week ago today while walking to school. She never made it to school.

The FBI on Thursday released a psychological profile of the kidnapper and asked residents to be mindful of changes in behavior or appearance by those they know. The killer is likely to be a man with local ties. 

"It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and ultimately it could be your family member," Joly said.

The FBI does not believe Jessica's grisly slaying is related to the recent abduction and rape of an 11-year-old girl in Cody, WY. That child was able to escape in part by kicking her abductor's face and bloodying his nose.

"Be vigilant," FBI Agent in Charge Jim Yacone said. "We need the media and the public's continued cooperation."

More than 500 homes and 1,000 vehicles have been searched in the Westminster area.

Many in the Westminster area wore on Friday the color purple or purple ribbons in a show of solidarity for Jessica. Purple is her favorite color.

Jessica lived with her mother. Her father, Jeremy Bryant, lives in Independence, MO, along with his grandmother. A vigil was held in Independence on Wednesday night.

Bryant traveled from Independence to Colorado this week. He made an emotional plea on Wednesday for the safe return of his daughter.

The family did not attend Friday's news conference. Moss said Bryant is devastated.

"I talked to him briefly last night," he said. "He's having a hard time."

Moss reminded children to kick, scream and fight if a stranger approaches them.

While the investigation continues, schools in Westminster are "locking out," which means kids aren't playing outside at recess and parents must show ID to pick up children.

The Ridgeway family will not be making a statement.

"They are devastated and ask that you respect their privacy," the police department said.

The family has created a website http://www.jessicaridgeway.com/ Donations can be made directly to the family on the website, according to police.

Copyright2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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