WESTMINSTER, Colo. (AP) — The weeklong search for a 10-year-old Colorado girl became a murder investigation after authorities identified a body found in a suburban Denver park as that of fifth-grader Jessica Ridgeway.
"Our focus has changed from the search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk said Friday. "We recognize there is a predator at large in our community."
Anxious parents kept close watch over their children. Fueling the frustration: The FBI again urged residents to report any suspicious activity by people they know.
"We want you to look for changes of habits, patterns, peculiar absences of those around you and report it to law enforcement," said Jim Yacone, FBI special agent in charge in Denver.
The U.S. Marshals Service, immigration officials and state Department of Corrections were reviewing registered sex offenders in the area, Yacone said without elaborating.
Investigators have received more than 1,500 tips from the public. Authorities also have searched more than 500 homes and more than 1,000 vehicles but still need the public's help, Yacone said.
Jessica was last seen beginning a short walk from her home to Witt Elementary School on the morning of Oct. 5. She never arrived. A search by hundreds of law officers did not start until hours later because Jessica's mother works nights and slept through a call from school officials saying Jessica wasn't there.
Jessica's backpack was found on a sidewalk in Superior on Oct. 7, some 6 miles northwest of her Westminster home. On Wednesday, authorities discovered a body in Arvada, about 7 miles west of her home, in a park in Arvada. They announced the body was Jessica's on Friday.
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