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'Everyone's little girl': Thousands gather to mourn slain Jessica Ridgeway

Thousands attended the service held in Westminster, Colo., to honor the life of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, whose body was found days after she disappeared on her way to school. Meanwhile, police continue to search for her killer. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

AP

Jessica Ridgeway disappeared on her way to school on Oct. 5 and was found dead last Wednesday.

Three thousand people gathered Tuesday night to mourn Jessica Ridgeway, the 10-year-old kidnapped girl whose body was found in a park just miles away, her body no longer intact, according to police.

Those in attendance at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colo., wore purple – Jessica’s favorite color, the Denver Post reported.

Gov. John Hickenlooper also attended and spoke of light and dark – the light from a supportive community and the darkness of such a heinous crime.


Jessica's great-aunt Gay Moore thanked those who reached out for "their help and their tears," the Post reported.

"Now she is not just our little girl," Moore said. "She is everyone's little girl."

Jessica began a short walk from her home to Witt Elementary School on the morning of Friday, 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.

Her body was found the following Wednesday, seven miles from her home.

The 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.

Related: Body found in Colorado is that of missing girl Jessica Ridgeway

Fear has since gripped the community, as police have cautioned that the killer may be in their midst.

Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt said the condition of the body police found last 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,” FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. 

Parent Keith Burke told The New York Times, “Everybody’s very scared.”

“There’s a predator that lives by somewhere,” he told the Times. “We don’t know where, and until we do, everybody’s going to be on edge.”

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