WESTMINSTER, Colo. (AP) — The search for a missing 10-year-old Colorado girl will continue after a body was found in a suburban Denver park seven miles from where the fifth-grader disappeared nearly a week ago, police said Thursday.
Westminster police spokesman Trevor Materasso provided no information about the body, which was discovered in a grassy field late Wednesday. He said investigators were still processing evidence from the crime scene — and he made no connection in a brief news conference to the Jessica Ridgeway case.
Jessica's mother last saw her walking to school on Oct. 5. Police say the girl is believed to have been abducted and never made it to school, setting off a frantic search by hundreds of law enforcement officials and residents. Her parents were ruled out as suspects Thursday.
Police sealed off the hilly area late Wednesday as investigators combed the scene for evidence. Firemen aboard a lift mounted on a fire truck illuminated the area with floodlights for several hours after dark fell.
Thursday's announcement surprised thousands who posted photos of Jessica and have followed the case since she vanished on what should have been a short walk to school.
Police initially said the public didn't need to fear a kidnapper — then said they were investigating whether the case might be related to that of another girl who was abducted for several hours Monday in Wyoming, among other tips they received.
On Wednesday afternoon, authorities changed course more definitively, saying they believe Jessica was kidnapped by an "unknown suspect."
Adding to the mystery was a reported sighting more than 2,000 miles away in Maine of a car with Colorado license plates — one of hundreds of leads being investigating from at least five states.
Police in the Denver suburb of Westminster repeatedly have urged the public to study the details of her face in a photo — a small, gap-toothed grin, a slight bruise on her nose — and a short home video, in hopes they may have seen something or come across the girl. They've thanked thousands of Coloradans and others for helping with a search they have insisted is focused on the area surrounding Jessica's home.
Materasso said Wednesday the investigation's focus is not the girl's parents, who are cooperating. Jessica's mother lives Colorado, and her father lives in Missouri.
"We're confident they are not involved in Jessica's disappearance," Materasso said.