GOLDEN, Colo. – A Colorado teenager has confessed to authorities in the abduction and killing of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, prosecutors said Thursday as suspect Austin Reed Sigg made his first court appearance in the case that galvanized a suburban Denver community.
Wearing green jail pants and a separate top, Sigg, 17, seemed alert. He said little as he appeared before District Judge Ann Gail Meinster in what was technically a juvenile proceeding. The judge decided to hold Sigg without bail, pending an appearance Tuesday where he will be charged as an adult.
“There’s a confession and DNA match,” Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Hal Sargent said in court. Outside of court, Dist. Atty. Scott Storey said he could not talk about the evidence because that material is sealed by the court.
Inside the courtroom, Sigg’s family, including his mother who reportedly contacted police about her son, watched the proceedings. Also in the courtroom were Jessica's relatives wearing purple ribbons, the symbol searchers wore during their search for the Westminster child.
Sigg’s only comment came as the judge spoke to him to explain what was going on.
“I don’t understand,” the shackled teenager said.
Sigg, who is represented by the public defender’s office, is being held on suspicion of murder and kidnapping in connection with the Ridgeway death and on suspicion of criminal attempt to kidnap and murder in an attack on a 22-year-old jogger at a Ketner park in spring.
Prosecutor Storey said that Sigg will be tried as an adult but is not eligible for the death penalty because of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in other cases.
Ridgeway was last seen alive on Oct. 5 when she left her home to walk to Witt Elementary School. The girl's backpack was discovered two days later and six miles from her home. Her dismembered body was found five days after the disappearance in an Arvada field nine miles from her home.
Sigg lived about a mile away from the Ridgeway home and was a graduate of the same elementary school, authorities said.
Westminster police said they took the teen into custody on Tuesday night after receiving a phone call, apparently from the suspect’s mother. She told the Associated Press, “I made the phone call, and he turned himself in. That's all I have to say,” she said, then broke down into tears and hung up.
The teenager is also being held in connection with a May 28 attack on a female jogger at the Ketner Lake Open Space. Police have said the two crimes are connected but haven't explained how.
In the May case, a woman fought off a stranger who grabbed her from behind and put a rag that smelled of chemicals over her mouth, authorities said they were told.
Authorities have released few details about their case, but investigators told the Denver Post that they found "DNA remnants" in the crawl space of the suspect’s home. All court documents have been sealed.
A custody report released by police said the suspect was cooperative and had waived his rights. He is described as a student at Arapahoe Community College, school officials told reporters.