Colo parents anxious as police search for abductor

Associated Press Modified: October 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm •  Published: October 12, 2012
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WESTMINSTER, Colo. (AP) — Anxious parents kept close and protective watch over their children Friday after the FBI warned them that a 10-year-old girl who vanished a week earlier may have been abducted by someone they know.

The sense of dread and suspense was magnified in the quiet Denver suburb of Westminster as residents waited for police to release the identity of a body found in a nearby park.

Jessica Ridgeway, the missing girl, 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 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.

Grim-faced investigators said Wednesday a body had been found, and that it was not intact, a fact that made it difficult to identify. Few other details were released, including whether it's the body of a child.

Investigators said they expected to identify the body on Friday.

The FBI urged residents to be alert for people they know who might have suddenly changed their appearance or uncharacteristically missed work or appointments.

"It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and ultimately it could be your family member," FBI spokesman Dave Joly said.

"We suspect someone in the community knows this individual," he said.

Signs of the tragedy were everywhere in Jessica's neighborhood of modest two-story homes with single-car garages.

During the past week, officers have searched homes, combed yards and looked in bushes. They kept guard at crosswalks and photographed cars entering the neighborhood. Mailboxes and trees were encircled by ribbons in Jessica's favorite color, purple.

"I don't feel safe for my daughter anymore, anywhere," said Stacey Oppie, who lives in the neighborhood.

Two months ago, Oppie started letting her daughter play unsupervised with a friend at the park that Jessica customarily passed on her way to school. She doesn't intend to do that anymore.

"We're all a little bit on alert, but it's not fear. We're angry because this is a good neighborhood," Oppie said.

Jessica's disappearance hit close to home for Chelsea Bozsak, a senior at nearby Standley Lake High School, where Jessica's cousin attends classes.

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