A wooden cross that was discovered by Colorado police in the Jessica Ridgeway investigation may play a crucial role in identifying the killer of the 10-year-old girl whose dismembered body was found this month. The Westminster Police Department released numerous sketches of the one-inch cross that might have been dropped by the killer.
Police say there also may be a link between Jessica’s murder and the attempted abduction last May of a 22-year-old woman in a park a half-mile away from Jessica’s home.
“Police believe there may be a connection between the Jessica Ridgeway murder and the attempted abduction at Ketner Lake, and urge the public to specifically look for someone with a cross like this that matches the suspect’s description from Ketner Lake,” said Westminster PD spokesman Trevor Materasso.
A law enforcement source who didn’t want to be identified told the Daily Beast that Jessica’s case has been positively linked through DNA evidence to the Ketner Lake attempted abduction.
Police say they are also trying to identify the shop that may have sold the cross to the killer. The cross, which has a role drilled at the top, looks like it may have been used as a necklace.
The fifth grader disappeared on the morning of Oct. 5 during a two-block walk to meet friends on their way to Witt Elementary School in Westminster, a northwest suburb of Denver. Jessica, who was dressed in a black jacket and jeans and wearing pink-and-purple eyeglasses, never arrived. A week later, on the same day authorities ruled out her parents as suspects, her dismembered body was found in a park in the Denver suburb of Arvada, about seven miles from her home.
Police have received more than 4,000 tips since Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk warned that a “predator” was at large in the community.
The case seemed to be going nowhere until Thursday, when the police released information about the attempted abduction on May 28. In that case, the woman was jogging along a path when the man attacked her from behind as she jogged past him around 1:15 p.m. on Memorial Day weekend. The woman was able to get free from her attacker and call the police. She told police that the man tried to cover her mouth with a chemical soaked rag and didn’t say a word to her. The woman described her attacker as a white male between the ages of 18 and 35, with brown hair and a medium build. He is approximatly 5’6’ to 5’8”.
A man fitting the same description attacked another young female in her early 20s in Ketner Lake in July of 2010. Materasso said the woman was running along a path near some homes around 8:20 p.m. when she saw a man sprinting toward her. “He ultimately outran her and knocked her to the ground,” he said. The woman was able to escape because her attacker was scared off after he heard a homeowner open up his sliding glass door.
Materasso said the attacker wasn’t wearing “any type of clothing that would lend you to believe he was out exercising.”
“In both cases it was a brief struggle and they were jumped from behind and both women were able to jump back and run free,” he said. Materasso said the police alerted the public about the two attacks but they “weren’t able to identify him in either cases.”
The police have been scouring dozens of reported abduction attempts in surrounding counties over the last few years to see if there are any related cases but so far he said, “There hasn’t been another case that was significant enough to say they were similar.”
Materasso said the predator is an opportunist. “He is opportunistic and it is a female at the right time,” he said.