“Evil is apparently real. It was present in our community on Oct. 5, 2012. On that day, its name was Austin Sigg.”
- Jefferson County District Court Chief Judge Stephen Munsinger
It was the 5th of October 2012. Ten year old Jessica Ridgeway left her house and began walking to school. It was around 8.35am. Normally, she saw a few friends on the way. That day she was having fun as it had been snowing and Jessica made some snowballs as she walked along the sidewalk in Westminster , Colorado, Denver, United States.
Jessica was a fun little girl. She loved dancing and music and really enjoyed making up new words to make other people laugh. Jessica was a wise and smart little girl. She was aware, even at the age of just ten, that the world wasn't a safe place. Her family had warned her to be careful when out and in her journal at school, she had written :
"Do not play at the park alone."
"Watch out for strangers!"
Her family told her if a stranger ever did approach her that she should scream. And that's exactly what Jessica did. She screamed. But nobody heard her.
That morning, when Jessica crossed the street, she walked towards a parked SUV. It looked like there was nobody in the car as there was nobody sitting in the driver's seat. But as she walked past the car, she was grabbed from behind and dragged into the car. Jessica screamed but it all happened in a matter of seconds. She was now in the back of a stranger's SUV.
The back of the SUV
Jessica's mother, Sarah, was at home at the time. She was asleep as she worked night shifts. She wasn't aware that Jessica was missing until 4.30pm that afternoon. She expected Jessica to arrive home after school but the school called to notify Sarah that Jessica never made it to school that day. Sarah called 911 to report her daughter missing.
There was a huge search in the area but nobody knew what happened to Jessica. Two days later, her backpack was found. Police feared the worst. Jessica's backpack contained her little purple glasses and the clothes she had been wearing when she went missing. The clothes smelled of urine.
Police matched DNA found in the backpack to the DNA recovered from an earlier attempted abduction in the area. Just four months before Jessica went missing, a man tried to abduct a woman jogging at Ketner Lake. He put a rag over her mouth that had been soaked in chloroform. She managed to get away and later notified the police. Now that they knew they were looking for the same attacker for both cases, police believed the attacker abducted Jessica as she would have been easier to overpower given her size and age. Even though the DNA from both crimes matched, police did not know who was responsible so they began taking DNA swabs of men in the area.
On the 10th of October, a horrifying discovery was made. A torso in two black garbage bags was found on 82nd Street in Pattridge Park Open Space in Arvada. The area was less than ten miles from Jessica's home. It was Jessica's torso.
On the 22nd of October, the media reported that a DNA link had been found between the abduction of Jessica and the attempted abduction of a jogger. It was that report that led to a confession. Police received a call from Mindy Siggs. She asked them to send officers to speak to her son, Austin Siggs. Austin lived just one mile from where Jessica was abducted from.
Before police received the call, they had already spoken with Austin and he had willingly provided a sample of his DNA. Due to a mix up with DNA testing, police believed Austin's DNA was tested and was not a match. So they really didn't think that he had anything to do with the two crimes. Austin was not aware that he had been marked as having been cleared. When he heard the media reports about the DNA link, he was convinced that police had matched his DNA to Jessica's abduction. When he heard the news he felt sick and slept in his mother's bed before telling her that he had something horrible to tell her. She instantly knew what it was about. Jessica Ridgeway.
Austin lived with his mother and younger brother and they were only too familiar with his interest in mortuary science and pornography. He began watching pornography when he was just twelve years old. His parents sent him to therapy but it didn't work and in the years that followed , he was obsessed with watching child pornography and violent images of children being raped, strangled and dismembered.
When police spoke to Austin, he told them what happened to Jessica. As they spoke to him, they also found some of Jessica's remains in a crawl space at his house.
Austin told police that the crime was at a “random place, random time, random everything.” That day, the 5th of October, he was hunched down in the back of his car. He watched Jessica as she walked along the sidewalk and crossed the street. That was the first time he ever saw Jessica. She was a complete stranger to him. As she walked past he grabbed her and dragged her into the back of the car. She screamed and he tied her hands and feet with zip ties. He drove back to his house and Jessica kept asking him questions. She wanted to know if he knew her mother.
Zip ties found in Austin's car
He knew as soon as he had her in the car, she was dead. Even though Jessica was someone he had never met before, he had planned to take someone for quite some time. He spent months planning an attack and searched for ways to make chloroform and the “Top Ten Places People Get Abducted.”
Jessica's aunt Becky, mother Sarah and grandmother Christine
When he was back at his house, he made Jessica get changed. She was so terrified that she wet herself. It was then that he put her clothes and glasses into her backpack. Austin told police that he did not sexually assault Jessica. That was a lie. She was raped with such brutality that there were horrific bruises on her body.
Austin told police that he tried to strangle her with zip ties but it didn't work so he used his hands and strangled her for three minutes. Jessica still wasn't dead so he forced her face first into a bath of scalding hot water. Austin then dismembered her body and hid her remains in the pool house before moving them to the crawl space in his house.
Crawl Space in Austin's House
Austin was charged with four counts of first degree murder, two counts of second degree kidnapping, sexual assault on a child, robbery and others related to the attempted abduction and sexual assault of a female jogger at Ketner Lake. There were a total of eleven charges related to Jessica’s case and six related to the attempted abduction.
Austin pleaded guilty to all of the counts against him. Due to his age at the time of the murder, the first degree murder charge carried an automatic sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. The Judge in the case was not satisfied with that though. He knew how dangerous and depraved Austin was so ordered him serve an additional eighty six years in prison after he becomes eligible for parole.
There were clear signs that Austin was a danger to the public. He had a girlfriend who confirmed he stayed one night every week with her but his mother said that he was out four nights every week so for three nights each week, nobody knew what he was up to. In Court, it was revealed by authorities that Mindy, Austin's mother, knew he had a fascination with bodies and decomposition and even helped him practice restraining someone with zip ties. That is probably why she knew instantly what he wanted to tell her before he even said the words out loud. Despite his dark, depraved and brutal side, he managed to convince some people he was normal. When police collected his DNA and spoke with him initially about where he was the day Jessica went missing, they did not believe he was involved in any way. But there was nothing normal about the events that unfolded that day, the 5th of October. Jessica encountered pure evil. By the time Sarah reported her daughter missing that day,Jessica was already dead. She suffered a horrific, brutal and painful death.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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