DENVER (AP) — The sudden disappearance of a 10-year-old Colorado girl took yet another turn Wednesday, with authorities saying they believe she was abducted.
The case has seen a number of twists since Jessica Ridgeway vanished Friday on what should have been a short walk to school. Police initially said the public didn't need to fear a kidnapper — then said they were investigating whether the case might be related to that of another girl who was abducted for several hours Monday in Wyoming, among other tips they received.
On Wednesday afternoon, authorities changed course more definitively, saying they believe Jessica was kidnapped by an "unknown suspect."
Adding to the mystery was a reported sighting more than 2,000 miles away in Maine of a car with Colorado license plates — one of hundreds of leads being investigating from at least five states.
Amid it all, there's still no sign of Jessica, the fifth-grader with blond hair and glasses who loves math and gym class.
Police in the Denver suburb of Westminster repeatedly have urged the public to study the details of her face in a photo — a small, gap-toothed grin, a slight bruise on her nose — and a short home video, in hopes they may have seen something or come across the girl. They've thanked thousands of Coloradans and others for helping with a search they have insisted is focused on the area surrounding Jessica's home.
For days, police only hinted at the possibility of a kidnapping. But at a news conference Wednesday, Westminster police spokesman Trevor Materasso said authorities believe the girl was abducted by an unknown person.
He also said the investigation's focus is not the girl's parents, who are cooperating. Jessica's mother lives Colorado, and her father lives in Missouri.
"We're confident they are not involved in Jessica's disappearance," Materasso said.
Just one day earlier, investigators organized, at police headquarters, a TV interview with Jessica's parents, Sarah Ridgeway of Westminster and Jeremiah Bryant of Independence, Mo. While it was being conducted, an FBI evidence team went into Jessica's home one more time for unspecified reasons.
The only real clue police have revealed is the discovery over the weekend of a backpack and water bottle that Jessica had with her when she disappeared. The items were found in the town of Superior, some six miles from her home. Police won't discuss what was found in the bag or testing results on it.
The search for Jessica went national, thanks in part to social media and a Facebook page set up to help find the girl.
"Do your good deed of the day and retweet Jessica's photo," hundreds of Tweets urged Wednesday.
In Dexter, Maine, 2,000 miles east, a woman reported seeing a girl who looked like Jessica on Sunday, in a blue Buick station wagon with Colorado plates. Authorities issued a statewide alert for officers to stop any blue Buick station wagons with Colorado plates, Dexter police Sgt. Alan Grinnell said.