The Murder of Jessica Ridgeway

Jessica Ridgeway, 10, was reported missing on October 5, 2012, in Westminster, Colorado. On October 29, 2012, Austin Sigg, 17, confessed to his mother that he had murdered and dismembered Jessica. She immediately contacted the police.

The Disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway

On October 5, 2012, at approximately 8:35 a.m., Jessica left her home, excited to meet her friends at a nearby park to walk together to school. She never met her friends and did not arrive at school. The school contacted her mother to inquire about Jessica’s absence. Her mother immediately contacted the police to report her daughter missing. Investigators would later discover someone kidnapped Jessica had been less than a thousand feet from the front door of her home.

Investigators immediately issued an Amber Alert and launched a search for Jessica. Two days after her disappearance, Jessica’s backpack was discovered on a sidewalk in a subdivision in Superior, several miles from Jessica’s house. The backpack contained clothing, including one pair of female underwear, socks, and glasses. All the contents smelled of urine and were determined to belong to Jessica. Foreign DNA was also discovered.

When crime lab technicians tested the foreign DNA from Jessica’s clothing, they discovered it matched DNA from another case. In that case, on May 28, 2012, a female had been jogging on the trails that surrounded a local reservoir, Ketner Lake, when she was attacked. The attacker had surprised her by trying to subdue her by placing a rag soaked with chloroform over her face. The victim had fought him off before escaping. She had survived the attack, but there had been no leads and the case remained open.

On October 10, 2012, five days after Jessica’s disappearance, her torso was discovered in two (doubled-up) black bags. It was found in the Patridge Open Space (park) on the side of 82nd Street in Arvada. It was 9 miles from Jessica’s home. The killer had meticulously cleaned Jessica’s torso. Crime lab technicians swabbed for DNA two times before partial DNA evidence was discovered. They matched the partial DNA with the DNA evidence that had been discovered in Jessica’s backpack and the jogger case from that previous May. 

Further Investigation into Jessica’s Disappearance

Following the discovery of Jessica’s partial remains, investigators expanded their search area. There were over 1,000 people and 75 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies involved in her search.

Approximately one week after the discovery, the FBI received a telephone call from a woman who expressed concern for a friend’s son, Austin Sigg. She told investigators she had recognized a wooden cross that had been photographed among Jessica’s possessions as belonging to Austin.

Investigators questioned Sigg. He calmly explained that he had been sleeping at the time of Jessica’s abduction. When they saw a picture of Sigg wearing what appeared to be the same wooden cross that had been found with Jessica’s remains, he offered no explanation. Investigators asked him for a DNA sample which he supplied without incident. Around this same time, investigators publicly announced that they had linked the cases of Jessica and the jogger through a DNA match.

Austin Sigg’s Confession

The following morning, Austin Sigg confessed to his mother, Mindy Sigg, that he had been responsible for Jessica’s abduction, murder, and dismemberment. Mindy Sigg immediately called investigators from the Westminster Police Department. They responded and took Sigg into custody for questioning. Austin Sigg provided a full confession.

This is the account that Sigg relayed. He said that he had committed the attack at Ketner Lake but that he had been unsuccessful because the victim could overpower him and escape. He decided he needed to find someone that he could overpower. Sigg said that the morning of Jessica’s abduction, it had been snowing. He had been driving around the neighborhood and had randomly parked on a residential street. He explained he did not know Jessica, and, in fact, had never seen her before. Sigg stated he watched Jessica walk on the sidewalk as she was catching snowflakes. He climbed into the back seat of his Jeep and waited until Jessica approached his vehicle. As Jessica was walking past the Jeep backdoor, Sigg jumped out, grabbed Jessica, and pulled her into the vehicle. He quickly zip-tied her wrists and ankles. Sigg stated he drove around for approximately 30 minutes with Jessica screaming from his backseat. He confessed he lied to her. “I lied to her and told her everything was going to be okay.” He drove Jessica to his home, which was just a little over one mile away from her home.

Sigg initially stated that he did not sexually assault her, but later in the interview admitted that he had. He said that Jessica had urinated herself, which was why he made her change into one of his T-shirts and a pair of his shorts. He placed her soiled clothing in her backpack and dumped the bag several miles in the opposite direction from his home to lead investigators away from the area. During the initial interview and confession, investigators learned that by the time that Jessica’s mother had reported her missing, Sigg had already abducted, raped, murdered, and dismembered Jessica. Sigg explained the events happened quickly. He said that he had kept Jessica in his bedroom for approximately two hours, where he made her watch a movie while he cut her hair.

Sigg stated that after he sexually assaulted Jessica, he strangled her with zip ties and his hands for three minutes. He moved her to the bathtub full of scalding hot water, where he held her face down to ensure that she was dead before dismembering her. He cleaned her remains and dumped the torso nine miles from her home to lead investigators away from the area. Sigg further stated that he hid her head and limbs at his home. While investigators conducted what would be a six-hour interview, additional investigators recovered her missing remains from a crawl space at Sigg’s home.

When asked why he had done this, Sigg stated he had abducted Jessica and attacked the Ketner Lake jogger to satisfy his sexual urges. Regarding Jessica’s murder, Sigg stated it was a “random place, random time, random everything.” He further stated, “The second I pulled her into my car, I knew she was dead.”

The Evidence Stacked Up Against Austin Sigg

During the investigation of Austin Sigg, investigators made some startling discoveries. They discovered that Sigg had conducted internet searches on such things as how to make chloroform and the “Top Ten Places People Get Abducted.” Investigators admitted it was surprising that Sigg was just a few weeks away from his 18th birthday at the time of Jessica’s murder. They had been looking for an adult male and not a 17-year-old.

Another fact that made an impression was that Austin Sigg was in his first year of college at Arapahoe Community College, where he was studying Mortuary Science.

Mindy Sigg had offered information regarding Austin’s childhood. She explained Sigg had been caught viewing child pornography when he was 12 years old. Mindy immediately enrolled him in therapy sessions that continued for several years. Sigg would tell investigators that the therapy sessions didn’t help as much as he had led the therapist and family to believe.

Austin Sigg’s parents are divorced. During the time of the trial, Austin’s father, Robert J. Sigg, stated, “There are no words to express the sorrow that I and my family feel for their pain. I also ask for your prayers and support for Austin’s mother, whose courageous act has put this tragedy on the path to resolution.”

The Charges and Sentencing of Austin Sigg

In total, Austin Sigg was charged with 17 criminal counts for his crimes against Jessica Ridgeway and the attack against the Ketner Reservoir jogger in May 2012. They include Murder in the First-Degree, Second-Degree Kidnapping, Crime of Violence, Sexual Assault on a Child, Robbery, Criminal Attempt Murder in the First Degree, Criminal Attempt Sexual Assault, and Criminal Attempt Second Degree Kidnapping.

Austin Sigg pleaded guilty to all the charges against him. According to U.S. Supreme Court law (Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 511), an offender under the age of 18 at the time of an offense cannot be given a death sentence. According to Colorado law, a life sentence is eligible for parole after serving 40 years. Jefferson County District Court Chief Judge Stephen Munsinger sentenced Sigg to the maximum of life in prison on November 19, 2013. Judge Munsinger further sentenced Sigg to an additional 86 years to ensure that Sigg would never leave prison. Judge Munsinger stated during sentencing, “Evil is apparently real. It was present in our community on October 5, 2012. On that day, its name was Austin Sigg.”

The Aftermath

A beautiful memorial was erected for Jessica Christine Ridgeway at the Ridgeway Burial Sites in the Partridge Open Space in Arvada, Colorado.

In June 2014, Austin Reed Sigg was moved to an undisclosed out-of-area prison to serve out his sentence.

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