Colorado authorities confirm that a set of human remains recently discovered are those of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.
Updated at 6:58 p.m. ET: Police in Colorado confirmed Friday that a dismembered body they discovered earlier in the week in a suburban Denver park is that of 10-year-old schoolgirl Jessica Ridgeway, who went missing from her Westminster home a week ago.
"Our focus has changed from the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said. "We realize there is a predator at large in our community."
Ridgeway began a short walk from her home to Witt Elementary School on the morning of Oct. 5 but never arrived. A massive search by hundreds of law enforcement officers was launched hours later because Jessica's mother, Sarah Ridgeway, works nights and slept through a call from school officials saying the fifth-grader wasn't there.
Ridgeway's case made national headlines in the days following her disappearance as hundreds of police officers, bloodhounds and scores of volunteers scoured the child's neighborhood looking for clues to her whereabouts. Her father, Jeremiah Bryant, who lives in Missouri, traveled to Colorado when he learned of his daughter's disappearance, police said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out with them," Birk said, adding, "They’ve been in our hearts from the beginning."
Ridgeway's body was found about 7 miles southwest of her home, police said.
The FBI had warned residents that Ridgeway may have been abducted by someone they know and asked them to be alert for people they know who might have suddenly changed their appearance or uncharacteristically missed work.
"We need the community to be vigilant and alert, to continue to call in tips, to report suspicious incidents, and behavior,” Birk said.
Earlier Friday authorities shifted their focus in the case to appealing for help in tracking down her apparent kidnapper by releasing a behavior profile for the suspected kidnapper.
“We suspect that someone in the community knows this individual,” FBI spokesman Dave Joly said at a press conference Thursday.
In their search for Jessica, the FBI in Denver said it’s important to focus not on how this person looks but on any kind of unusual behavior.
That behavior could include missing work and appointments, leaving town, changes in alcohol and drug use, or changes in appearance, according to an FBI Denver press release.
“Somebody who’s maybe very engaged in the media coverage of this particular investigation, and maybe they’re a little annoyed by all the coverage.
This image provided by the Westminster Colorado Police Department shows Jessica Ridgeway.
Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt said the condition of the body police found Wednesday could indicate an experienced killer.
“It’s someone who’s fully capable of doing something like this again,” Van Zandt said.
“It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and, ultimately, it could be your family member,” Joly said.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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