WESTMINSTER, Colo. - Westminster police announced Wednesday they have arrested a 17-year-old who had skills in forensic science and criminology in the abduction and murder of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.
"I'm pleased to announce that today I believe we have taken a significant step toward justice for Jessica. We have made an arrest in the Jessica Ridgeway case: 17-year-old Austin Sigg is in our custody," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk announced during a noon news conference.
Westminster police said they received a call Tuesday evening that led them to Sigg's home near the Ketner Lake Open Space, which is about 1 mile from Jessica's home on the other side of Ketner Lake.
He was arrested at his home around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday and cooperated with police and waived his rights.
7NEWS has learned that a woman identifying herself as Sigg's aunt said the teen went to his mother with disturbing information and she urged him to call police and turned himself in. It's not clear if Sigg called police or if his mother called police.
His mother was at the home when he was taken into custody.
Investigators said they will file charges against Sigg in the abduction and death of Ridgeway and the May 28 attempted abduction and attempted murder of a 22-year-old woman at Ketner Lake.
Sigg does not appear on any Colorado sex offender lists and since he is a juvenile, his previous record has been sealed.
He is being held at the Mountain View Juvenile facility.
He attends Arapahoe Community College and at one time attended Standley Lake High School. It does not appear that he graduated since he would have been a senior this year.
In school, he was involved in a student organization called HOSA, or Health Occupation Student Association, where he competed in crime scene investigations and was a state winner in forensic science and biotechnology.
Police were at his home Wednesday afternoon and towed a gray Jeep. He has lived in his home since he was an infant.
Police said anyone who has any information about Sigg after seeing his photo can still call the tip line at 303-658-4336 or email: PDamberalert@cityofwestminster.us .
The investigation is ongoing and any information about Sigg that could be helpful is still welcome.
However, affidavits in the case have been sealed.
"Justice for Jessica is a process and this is the beginning of that process. I know you are yearning for a lot of information, but we can't give you a lot of information," Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said during the news conference.
"Charges are forthcoming, charges will be filed within a couple of days and then we start a different process," Storey said. "Mr. Sigg has a presumption of innocence and we are going to honor that. And that is all I have to say."
Sigg is in court Thursday morning for an initial appearance. He will not be formally charged until later.
Jessica's Family Elated
A 7NEWS photographer who was outside Jessica's home said that the door to the house opened and he heard laughing inside. The mood at Jessica's home appeared to be relaxed.
"We hope and pray that this arrest gives them some measure of closure in dealing with this horrible tragedy and loss that they have suffered. We hope also that know that an arrest was made in this case will help our community to rest a little easier," Birk said.
Jessica's great-grandmother said she was elated to hear the news.
"Grateful to God that the community pulled together and the police department didn’t quit," said Donna Moss, who lives in Independence, Mo.
Moss said she's thankful police didn't let any tips slip though the cracks.
Neighbors who have been on edge for more than two weeks said they are relieved now that an arrest has been made.
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Ridgeway disappeared Oct. 5 as she was walking to meet up with friends at Chelsea Park so they could all walk to school together. The park is several blocks from her home. Her friends said she never showed up at the park. Ridgeway's remains were found in an Arvada open space park five days later.
Westminster police told 7NEWS on Tuesday that they had received 3,400 tips via email and 6,000 phone tips. It was one of those tips on Tuesday evening that led to the arrest.
Ridgeway Case Linked To May Attack
On Monday, Westminster police confirmed to 7NEWS they found a direct connection between the murder of Jessica Ridgeway and the person who attacked a female jogger at Ketner Lake in May.
"We are able to make a definitive link," said Westminster Police spokesman Trevor Materasso.
In the May attack, a 22-year-old woman was jogging when someone grabbed her from behind and tried to put a chemical-laced rag over her mouth, police said.
The woman escaped and called 911, police said. Yet officers searching the area with a police dog were unable to find the attacker.
The suspect in the May attack was described as a light-skinned man who ranged in age from 18 to his 30s. He
had brown hair, a medium build and was about 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall. The man was wearing a dark blue baseball cap, small-rim sunglasses, a black T-shirt and blue jeans.
A similar incident occurred in July 2010, when a man chased a female jogger near the lake. Police said that man's description was similar to the assailant in the jogger attack.
DNA Taken From 500 People
Westminster Police confirmed to 7NEWS that DNA samples were collected from about 500 people during the investigation.
Everyone who submitted DNA samples in the case did so voluntarily, said Materasso. Samples were collected orally, using a DNA swab.
Materasso said people were asked to provide a DNA sample if they used their cell phones near the three crime scene areas.
Others were asked for a sample if they were identified based on tips from the public or by police officers during neighborhood searches.
Although Materasso confirmed the samples were collected, he didn't discuss how the samples would be used in the investigation.