GOLDEN, Colo. — The teenager suspected in the death and dismemberment of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway and the attempted abduction of a young woman was charged as an adult Tuesday with 17 counts, including first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault on a child.
Austin Reed Sigg, who will turn 18 in January, sat silently in a tiny courtroom ringed by 11 sheriff’s deputies as the charges were read. He was shackled and, unlike during his last court appearance, did not turn and attempt to make eye contact with his family seated a few feet away.
The Oct. 5 disappearance of Jessica rattled the Denver suburbs, prompting parents throughout the region to keep closer watch on their children. It also prompted a widespread manhunt, with police and FBI agents going door to door and scores of volunteers scouring the area for days.
Jessica's backpack was found Oct. 8 on a sidewalk in a suburb a few miles from her suburb of Westminster. Two days later, a dismembered body was found in a remote open-space park. On Oct. 12, Westminster police confirmed that the body was that of the missing girl.
At Tuesday’s hearing, public defender Mitch Ahnstedt said he would seek to reverse the court’s decision to try Sigg as an adult. The teenager is being held in a juvenile detention facility, but the prosecution has asked that he be transferred to an adult jail.
Sigg is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping and one count of sexual assault on a child, along with one count of robbery and one count of a crime of violence.
Jessica, a fifth-grader, had set out for the short walk to a park in her middle-class neighborhood, where she was to meet friends before they continued on to school.
On Oct. 23, Sigg turned himself in after his mother reportedly called police. He lived with his mother and brother about a mile from the Ridgeway home. The prosecution has said that Sigg confessed and that unspecified DNA evidence linked him to the crime.
The sexual assault charge marks the first time authorities have indicated a sex crime aspect to the case.
If convicted, Sigg cannot face the death penalty because of his age but could serve 40 years before his first chance at parole, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said.
He is also charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted kidnapping and attempted sexual assault in a failed abduction of a 22-year-old woman May 28 who was jogging near a lake not far from the Sigg home. The woman said someone approached her from behind and tried to cover her mouth with a cloth soaked in chemicals and drag her to a car.
In the courtroom, Ridgeway family members — many dressed in Jessica’s favorite color, purple — were separated from Sigg’s mother, younger brother and father by only a few feet. The Ridgeway family and friends were stoic throughout the brief proceedings, while the Sigg family members were visibly shaken, sometimes crying softly.