Missing girl Jessica Ridgeway's family breaks their silence

8:44 PM, Oct 9, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

Jessica's family spoke to 9NEWS Reporter Dave Delozier Tuesday afternoon for the first time since Jessica was reported missing on her walk to school.

They encouraged community members to continue to help in the search attempts and thanked everyone for their donations of time, money, food and effort.

"We are strong, and we're just going to get stronger," Jessica's mom Sarah told 9NEWS' Delozier. "[Jessica's] my rock. She's all of our rock. When you're down, she'll come around, make you laugh, hug [and] kiss [you or] dance."

Her mom says Jessica is the light of the household. Even with all the people in the home, her mother says the house it too quiet without her exuberant spirit.

"I want her to come walking back through that door," Sarah said. "I need her to come walking back through that door."

Her mom said math is one of Jessica's favorite subjects and she would never miss school.

"It's not anything I want any parent to ever go through," Sarah said.

However, Sarah remains hopeful.

"We are a strong family," Sarah said. "We will get through this. We will find her and take care of her."

Jessica's father Jeremiah spoke also on Tuesday - echoing Sarah's sentiments and concerns.

"I just want to find my daughter. I just want her back home," Jeremiah said. "It's by far the worst thing I've ever been through - still is."

Even though Jessica's parents are separated and her father lives in Missouri, police asked both parents whether the other would have taken Jessica. Both parents said no.

Her family has kept her room tidy - just waiting for her return.

Purple and green are Jessica's favorite colors, thus Jessica's family hopes to "paint the town purple" so the community can remember she's missing.

THE SEARCH

Authorities continued to search the area around Jessica's home as well as some open-field areas. They brought dogs to help them in their efforts on Tuesday.

In a later press conference, Matarasso said 400 homes will be searched in Jessica's neighborhood on Tuesday.. He says authorities are halfway done with their search of the homes. Matarasso says they are working with Jessica's family to talk to the media, however it is not known at this time when that statement will be made.

Westminster Police released two new photos and a video of Jessica on Tuesday to help people better identify her.

Watch the video below:

"We really want people to focus on Jessica's facial features," Materasso said. "Two things of note that you will see - particularly in the video - she has a gap between her two front teeth, when you see that video, it's fairly obvious and a distinguishing characteristic. As well, she's got a sore at the top of her nose just below where her glasses sit. That sore doesn't heal, so it's a good indicator if you see someone you think is Jessica those two things are good to pay particular attention to."

Matarasso emphasized to residents they should stop focusing on what she was wearing at the time of her disappearance and instead focus on her mannerisms and her demeanor.

Matarasso says the investigation may focus more on an abduction than her being a possible runaway. 

Authorities did find some new items Monday night, however they cannot confirm if they are directly tied to Jessica. The only item authorities are confirming is Jessica's is the backpack found on Sunday. Matarasso reiterated they are being extremely diligent in their search efforts.

"We don't want to miss anything," Matarasso said. "We're going to go back several times; we've going to cover our tracks. We're going to look in the same area that we've already looked. You're going to see a lot of activity ... in and around her home, and that's going to continue today. There's nothing specific that's keeping us in that area other than we want to make sure there's no stone unturned, and we're focusing because, again, that is where Jessica disappeared from."

More than 125 personnel from 12 agencies took part in Monday's search. They focused on the area between Highway 128 and Highway 93, including Eldorado Canyon in Boulder. Eight to 10 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers also participated in the search Monday.

Investigators worked with bloodhounds and used two teams of four to search the areas that were already been cleared.

Crews also searched along Highway 36, it was announced Monday during a press conference.

Police confirmed a backpack found in a Superior neighborhood Sunday belongs to Jessica.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation will be testing the backpack for additional evidence. Police say that the backpack was found in the Rock Creek subdivision, 6.2 miles from Jessica's house. Authorities don't know when the bag was put there. They are asking parents in the Rock Creek subdivision to talk to their kids to see if they noticed anything out of the ordinary. Authorities have stationed police officers at schools in the area, though there is no indication other children are in danger. Three police checkpoints were established in the area Sunday. Police stopped and questioned people as they drove in and out of the neighborhood.

Westminster investigator Cheri Spottke says more than 800 volunteers helped look for Jessica Saturday.

On Saturday, a dive team went into Ketner Reservoir in order to rule the area out in the search.

NEIGHBORHOOD RESPONSE

Officers patrolled Jessica's elementary school on Monday. Police and parents took every precaution as they hoped for Jessica's safe return.

"It's very scary," Natalie Madrid said. "I'm a single mother of three."

"It's just an eye opener," Madrid added. "You need to protect your kids. You need to make sure your kids are where they need to go. It's devastating, and it's scary."

"I can't imagine what their mother is going through," Madrid said. "It could happen to any parent."

Jessica's disappearance is just frightening for her classmates and friends.

"They're just wishing she could come home safe," sixth grader Nick Ramirez said. "They talked about it all day."

Ramirez says many of his classmates talked to counselors Monday.

"[I'm] sad and scared at the same time," Ramirez said. "It's so close to home."

This is not the first scare close to the elementary school. On Memorial Day weekend, a woman escaped an attempted kidnapping at Ketner Lake.

The 22-year-old told Westminster Police a man put a rag over her mouth that smelled like chemicals and tried to grab her. Police never found him. Ketner Open Space is less than half a mile from Chelsea Park - where Jessica disappeared. Police are not saying if they suspect a connection, but it's enough to make some parents nervous.

"That's two incidents in the neighborhood," Sergio Ramirez said.

Ramirez says it's enough to make any parent nervous.

"[It's] the unknown," Ramirez said. "That's for sure."

More than anything, Ramirez wants Jessica to come home safely.

"She needs all of our prayers," Ramirez said.

JESSICA'S DISAPPEARANCE

Jessica usually walks three blocks from Moore Street to Chelsea Park where she would meet up with a large group of friends before walking 1.3 miles to school. In that three-block radius, she disappeared.

Police say Jessica's mother works an overnight shift, and her grandmother watches her at night. When Jessica's mother got home at 7:30 a.m., she saw Jessica off to school at 8:30 a.m., according to 9NEWS reporter Kevin Torres.

Police say they got a late start searching because her mother didn't immediately realize Jessica was missing. Officers say her mother slept through calls from school officials to tell her Jessica was absent.

Westminster Police sent out an emergency-text alert advising residents to be on the lookout before a system-wide Amber Alert was issued by the CBI Friday evening.

"[We] started activating a lot of personnel to start searching for her," Materasso said.

An Amber Alert is only issued if authorities fear the child is in immediate danger. Find out more requirements for an Amber Alert here, http://1.usa.gov/QPQf3C.

Three weeks ago, students at an Arvada school saw a man in a dark sedan trying to lure kids closer to his vehicle. JeffCo schools sent letters out to all of its schools - including Witt Elementary where Jessica attends school. Police are looking into whether there's a connection.

Authorities are monitoring social-media sites and following up on more than 300 tips.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

A new flier with updated information was distributed Monday. It shows Jessica with and without her glasses.

Police have been updating volunteers and the public through their Twitter page. You can follow the Westminster Police here: https://twitter.com/WestminsterPD. They are asking residents to not send them tips via social media. Instead use the tip line listed below.

Police released a phone number and email for anyone with information: 303-658-4336 and PDamberalert@cityofwestminster.us.

VIGILS

Two vigils for Jessica are planned for Tuesday at the following locations:

Kensington Park

10200 Countryside Drive

Vigil begins at 7 p.m.

Rock Creek Superior Community Park

Between Coalton Road and Indiana Street

Vigil begins at 7 p.m.

For both vigils, individuals are asked to bring flashlights or a cellphone, do not use candles.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

Most Watched Videos