Austin Sigg was seventeen years old when he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered a ten year old girl in Colorado. According to court documents Jessica Ridgeway disappeared on her way home. Several days later her dismembered remains would be found in a park. When he was arrested he would make a full confession to police. That he saw the little girl walking towards his jeep he would grab her and would bind her hands and legs then took her back to his home. Austin would sexually assault the child before murdering her, dismembering her and trying to hide her remains. Ultimately this teen killer would be convicted on all charges and sentenced to life in prison
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Jessica Ridgeway’s family will be spared the pain of having to sit through the trial of the man who murdered her.
18-year-old Austin Sigg pleaded guilty yesterday to all charges related to the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Ridgeway, as well as the attempted kidnapping of a jogger. His plea was against the advice of his attorneys.
Sigg was expected to go on trial this week for Jessica’s murder. Jessica was only 10 years old when she was abducted on her way to school in Westminster, Colorado, in October 2012. Her body was found days later, in a local park.
Sigg reportedly confessed to the murder, after his mom called the police after speaking to him.
He will be sentenced on November 8. Because he was 17 at the time of the crimes, he may only face 40 years in jail before being eligible for parole. Prosecutors are expected to ask for consecutive sentences so he spends the rest of his life in prison.
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Like many children, Jessica Ridgeway was told to be wary of strangers. She was urged to scream if someone tried to grab her.
Those warnings are reflected in a notebook the fifth-grader kept in her desk at school. For a class assignment, she jotted down the four kinds of sentences. In both tiny and oversized letters, she wrote an example of an imperative sentence:
“Do not play at the park alone.”
And an exclamatory sentence:
“Watch out for strangers!”
Just over a mile away from Jessica’s tree-lined suburban neighborhood in Westminster, Austin Sigg grew up with an early fascination with pornography and mortuary science. His parents sent him to a faith-based counselor in an effort to set him back on the right path.
The events on the morning of Oct. 5, 2012, taught a terrifying lesson to parents everywhere. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the world can take your child away.
In her final moments of freedom, Jessica scooped up handfuls of fresh snow and packed them into a snowball.
Down the block, in his Jeep parked where he knew no one could see him, Sigg watched the 10-year-old carry the snowball toward him. He waited until she reached the end of the sidewalk and had to cross the street.
He watched, slumped on the gray leather seats in the back of his gold vehicle, as she turned and began walking past.
When Sigg sprang from the Jeep, Jessica screamed, but no one heard her.
The details of Jessica’s final hours are known only by her killer. But documents, court testimony, interviews with prosecutors and newly released videotaped statements from Sigg outline the intersection of a troubled 17-year-old and a happy girl just after she left her home at 8:35 a.m.
The evidence shows Sigg as an adept and callous liar, whose chilling confessions may have been understatements or outright fiction.
After his arrest, Sigg spent hours describing to investigators what he says was a crime at a “random place, random time, random everything.” His defense attorneys argued that his actions were impulsive and that he struggled to understand them.
But prosecutors and court testimony suggest Sigg, who pleaded guilty to all of the charges against him on Oct. 1, spent months planning and studying, searching the Internet for chloroform recipes and the “Top Ten Places People Get Abducted.” Sigg’s confidence in his method, however, may have led to some of his greatest missteps.
And Sigg’s confidence in investigator’s methods — he believed they already had linked his DNA to Jessica’s murder and an attack on a jogger at Ketner Lake — turned out to be another mistake.
Only when Sigg surrendered did he and authorities discover the error that lab technicians had made in handling the DNA sample he had brashly offered to investigators. An error that said Sigg had been cleared.
Kind and caring
Jessica loved to make up dances and giggled at words she made up and hummed to melodies. Her bright-blue eyes were never lost behind her purple glasses.
At Witt Elementary School, the joyous little girl was loved by her teachers and classmates. She spent her last morning peeling an orange with her mother and eating a granola bar for breakfast.
Sigg’s elementary school teachers also described him as kind and caring, according to testimony from his attorneys.
But by age 12, Sigg was viewing child pornography and was sent to therapy. By Sigg’s own admission, the sessions did little and his addiction quietly grew over the years, until he was viewing violent images of children being raped, strangled and dismembered.
Sigg’s interest in mortuary science struck some as odd, but not alarming. In his interview with investigators, Sigg’s younger brother recalled a “slightly creepy comment” his brother made about one of his classes in which he “was learning how to kill people and be able to get away with it,” according to a report by Anna Salter, a psychologist who testified for the prosecution.
A friend of Mindy Sigg, Austin’s mother, later recalled conversations the women had before Jessica was kidnapped. Mindy Sigg joked about her son’s interest in body decomposition and said she had helped Sigg practice restraining someone with zip ties, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Hal Sargent.
Sigg’s girlfriend would later tell investigators he stayed at her house one night a week, Sargent said. Mindy Sigg told detectives her son was gone up to four nights a week. No one is sure where he was the other three nights.
“What he does in the part of his life he keeps hidden — that’s what you make ghost stories out of,” Sargent said.
In the weeks before Jessica’s death, Sigg went out “hunting,” driving his Jeep around neighborhoods.
“Anytime I would even see someone out walking while I was in one of those modes, my heart would instantly start beating really fast,” Sigg told investigators in an interview they videotaped.
Four months before Sigg took Jessica, he tried to kidnap a woman jogging at Ketner Lake by shoving a chloroform-soaked rag in her face. The woman was able to fight him off and call police.
Still, Sigg said he learned from his first try. Months later, he went looking for someone smaller. Someone he could overpower.
“I would lie to her”
Sigg found Jessica walking to school, less than a thousand feet from her front door.
He lunged from the back seat of his Jeep and grabbed the little girl — whom he says he had never seen before. Sigg pulled her into the back seat and bound her feet and hands with zip ties.
Jessica asked him who he was. Did he know her mom?
“She kept asking me questions. I would answer them and I would lie to her,” Sigg said. “I would tell her that everything was going to be OK. I would just lie to her.”
As Sigg carried Jessica up to his room, the little girl who loved animals saw cat boxes. She asked about the cats, and then asked what he was going to do to her.
Investigators aren’t sure whether the wisps of compassion Sigg says he showed her — cutting the zip ties off her wrists, playing cartoons for her, assuring her she’d see her mother again — actually happened or were more lies.
In his room, Sigg said he stared at Jessica before he made her change out of her urine-soaked clothes and stuff her belongings into her backpack. He gave her a white shirt and black shorts from his closet.
Then, he said, he told her to turn away from him — and then he strangled her. He dismembered her body and initially hid her remains in a pool shed behind his house.
Jessica was dead before her mom called 911 that afternoon
For the next 17 days, investigators scoured neighborhoods and collected about 700 DNA samples.
The day Jessica disappeared, a team of prosecutors began building a case. Two days after Jessica disappeared, investigators found her backpack on a sidewalk in a Superior subdivision. Jessica’s purple glasses were inside.
“The glasses tell you she’s dead,” Sargent said. “There’s a reason he chose the items that smelled of urine, her jacket and socks and other items of clothing he threw out. He chose carefully.”
Sigg said he dumped the backpack to lead investigators away from his house. Investigators matched DNA found in the backpack to the DNA recovered from the jogger.
On Oct. 10, Sigg placed Jessica’s torso in two black garbage bags and left it alongside 82nd Street in Pattridge Park Open Space in Arvada — just 9 miles from her home.
“There’s a reason he picked that spot,” Sargent said. “He wanted her found.”
Federal and local authorities were certain they were looking for an adult, and prosecutors began considering it as a death penalty case.
The torso was so clean when they found it that investigators had to swab it twice before they were able to collect a partial DNA sample. That sample matched the other DNA collected.
But investigators still had not linked the DNA from those cases to any of the hundreds of samples they had collected and tested.
On Oct. 17, the investigation grew closer to Sigg as neighborhood canvassing expanded.
Two days later, a friend of Mindy Sigg’s called the FBI and expressed concerns about Sigg. The woman recognized the photo of a wooden cross that was found with Jessica’s body.
Sigg, who prosecutors say was confident he had not left any DNA behind, provided FBI agents with a DNA sample and said he was home sleeping when Jessica was kidnapped. They noticed a cross Sigg was wearing and asked him about it.
He calmly answered the questions, and the investigators left his home without suspicion. His DNA sample was sent out with a batch of others.
On Oct. 22, media reports said a DNA link had been made between Jessica’s death and the attack on the jogger. Sigg told his classmates he felt “wobbly” and “tremendously” sick. He slept in his mother’s bed that night.
The next day, Sigg told his mother he had something horrible to tell her. Immediately she asked him if it was about Jessica, Sargent said.
Mindy Sigg called Westminster police about her son and asked them to send officers. She cried and hugged him while they waited.
The sudden confession from a juvenile shocked law enforcement, who had been searching for an adult male.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Sargent said. “We wondered if it was a mistake. That was the first question: Was this a false confession?”
But the details Sigg described for almost six hours were too precise, too graphic to be made up. At the same time, investigators were removing the rest of Jessica’s remains from his home.
Sigg calmly described himself as a monster.
He admitted that he was consumed by some sort of sexual drive when he grabbed Jessica, but maintained he did not sexually assault her. Later, he admitted that was a lie, too.
Still, investigators were missing the final link. An early result showed Sigg’s DNA did not match the samples taken from Jessica and the jogger. During his interview with police, Sigg repeatedly asked about his DNA, and detectives asked whether anyone had helped him.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation tested hundreds of DNA samples obtained by swabbing the cheeks of men in the neighborhood.
They sent back empty envelopes labeled with the names of those who had submitted the samples — an empty envelope meant the DNA did not match samples from Jessica or the jogger.
Sigg’s envelope had come back empty, too.
But hours into Sigg’s interview, investigators learned that his sample had been lost in a batch and hadn’t yet been tested.
They ordered an immediate test and received confirmation: Sigg’s DNA matched the sample found on the jogger, Jessica’s water bottle and her remains.
Because Sigg was three months short of his 18th birthday when he killed Jessica, he was not eligible for the death penalty. But District Attorney Pete Weir and his team worked to ensure that Sigg, who turned 18 in jail, would never leave prison.
Despite the DNA misstep, prosecutors say Sigg’s DNA would have eventually been tested. The case the team spent almost a year building was so strong, they say, it would have ended in a conviction had Sigg not decided to plead guilty to all charges two days before his trial was scheduled to begin.
“Frankly, it’s a testament to this team and to law enforcement to be able to collect the evidence and piece it together,” Weir said. “There was no defense in this case.”