- Associated Press - Friday, October 12, 2012

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (AP) — Authorities have shifted their focus from searching for a missing 10-year-old girl to appealing for help in tracking down her apparent kidnapper, as concern mounts in a Denver suburb where the girl disappeared a week ago and a body was found.

Police on Friday expect to positively identify a body found in a park seven miles from where Jessica Ridgeway went missing Oct. 5. Police have not linked the body to Jessica or even revealed if it belongs to a child. The body found at Pattridge Park in Arvada was “not intact,” which has delayed identification, police said.

Notably missing Thursday were more appeals by authorities to spread word of Jessica’s disappearance via social media. Instead, the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit released a list of changes that a person committing a crime against a child would exhibit. Among them: sudden differences in appearance, missed appointments, being absent from work, or leaving town with no explanation.

“It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and ultimately it could be your family member,” FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. “Bring this information to law enforcement and let us vet that to a close. If that person is not the suspect, ‘Thank you for your call.’ Next lead.”


Joly said agents are searching for a man, based on statistics for this type of crime.

Retired FBI behavioral analyst Clinton Van Zandt told The Associated Press that some things to look out for include a person suddenly growing a beard, cutting their hair or doing other things to change their appearance. Other clues are activities that are out of character, such as a person who may have detailed their car when he normally would have only washed it, Van Zandt said.

Now, authorities just need somebody to have noticed and contact police, Van Zandt said.

As for the lack of information being released by authorities, it’s part of the search for a suspect, Van Zandt said.

“Whoever is responsible would be watching this very closely,” Van Zandt said, and procedure would be to release information “that will drive the offender one way or another.”

Police have ruled out as suspect Jessica’s parents — Sarah Ridgeway, who lives in Colorado, and Jeremiah Bryant, who lives in Missouri — and have said they believe Jessica was kidnapped by an “unknown suspect.”

Jessica’s mother last saw her daughter walking to a park in Westminster to meet friends to walk to school. The girl never arrived at school, setting off a frantic search by hundreds of law enforcement officials and residents.

Aurelio Florez, who has lived in Jessica’s neighborhood for six years, said it was shocking that Jessica could have vanished during a two-block walk to a park.

“You can see the park from her front door,” he said.

Fliers about the fifth-grader were posted on nearly every house in her neighborhood of modest, two-story homes with single-car garages. Purple ribbons, Jessica’s favorite color and a symbol of hope for her return, were tied around trees.

It was a lively area where children played outdoors, said another neighbor, Luis Pena, but since Jessica disappeared, parents are keeping their children inside and people look at each other with suspicion.

Story Continues →