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Jessica Ridgeway's unsettled neighbors: The accused lived among us

October 25, 2012|By Jenny Deam

WESTMINSTER, Colo. – For many in this suburban Colorado town, the arrest of a teenager in connection with the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Ridgeway is like trading one horror for another.

Austin Reed Sigg, 17, made his first court appearance on Thursday and was ordered held without bail, pending his next court appearance when prosecutors will ask that he be tried as an adult.

On the middle-class block where the Sigg family lives, investigators continued to search his home for evidence. Sigg’s house is about a mile from the Ridgeway home. Her dismembered body was discovered five days later.

Neighbors said there was a sense of relief because the manhunt for a suspect is over. But the arrest brought another unsettling thought: The accused lived among them.

PHOTOS: Jessica Ridgeway memorial

“I saw him every day. All the kids on the block know each other,” Miah Gutierrez, who lives five homes away from the Sigg house, said in an interview. He said his roommate’s daughter knew Sigg because the teenager supposedly had a crush on her friend’s sister. It all felt too close for comfort for the 25-year-old father.

“My God there are babies everywhere around here,” he said.

During Sigg’s appearance in Jefferson County, prosecutors said authorities had DNA evidence linking the teenager to the Ridgeway case. The teenager also had confessed, they said. Outside of court, prosecutors said they could not discuss the evidence, which has been sealed by the court.

Sigg, who will be 18 in Janurary, appeared heavily shackled and wearing green prison scrubs. He is accused of first-degree murder, felony murder and kidnapping in connection with the Ridgeway case. He is also a suspect in an attempted kidnapping and attack on a female jogger in May.

The heartbreak of the case was etched on the faces of both the Sigg and Ridgeway families, who were separated by only a few feet in the tiny courtroom.

Sigg’s mother and younger brother wept throughout the brief proceedings, at times collapsing against each other. At one point Sigg glanced at them but did not try to communicate. He only spoke once, when he told Meinster he did not understand a procedural part of the hearing, which was clarified for him by his defense team, led by public defender Mitch Ahnstedt.

The prosecution will not be seeking the death penalty because of Sigg's age.

Sigg, an Arapahoe Community College student who was arrested late Tuesday -- 18 days after Ridgeway disappeared on her way to school -- after his mother called police and he turned himself in.


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