Westminster Colorado Police Department/AP
10/12/2012 at 07:00 PM EDT
A week after 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway went missing
on her way to school, authorities in Colorado confirmed Friday that human remains found two days earlier are those of the missing girl.
"It is with a great deal of sorrow in my heart that I inform you that the body that was found in Arvada has been positively identified as Jessica Ridgeway," said Lee Birk, police chief of Westminster, Colo., where the girl was abducted. "The mission has changed from a search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica."
Authorities say this case is particularly difficult to investigate, as it involves a young girl who was snatched, murdered and dismembered so badly that it took a couple of days to definitively identify her remains through DNA.
The 4-foot-10-inch-tall, 80-lb. girl disappeared at about 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 5, as she walked the few blocks from her home to a park where she usually met friends for a 1½-mile walk to Witt Elementary School. Her backpack turned up six miles away in a residential area in Superior, Colo., last weekend, and her body was discovered in a different area, a park seven miles from her home in Arvada, Colo., on Wednesday evening.
"This is an unthinkable end to an unthinkable crime in our community," said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Officials earlier in the week said members of Jessica's family had been cleared of any suspicion.
The FBI, which is working with local police, suggests the abductor is someone known to the community or to someone in the community, and asks that local residents be on the lookout for anyone who has exhibited unusual behavior in the past week such as missing work and appointments, leaving town, changes in alcohol and drug use, or changes in appearance.
In the past week, investigators have searched 500 homes, 1,000 vehicles and received 1,500 tips, according to James Yacone, special agent in charge of the FBI's Denver office.
"The commitment of the task force of investigators in this case will not waver," Yacone said.
To tip police, contact (303) 658-4336 or PDAmberAlert@cityofwestminster.us.