Published October 09, 2012
WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Authorities scoured a suburban Denver neighborhood for clues and urged people to be on the lookout Tuesday for a 10-year-old girl who disappeared days ago on her way to school.
Police released more photos of Jessica Ridgeway along with a short home video, saying it would help the public learn her mannerisms and the sound of her voice.
They're asking the public to notice some of the fifth-grader's distinguishing characteristics, such as a small gap between her two front teeth and a sore on the top of her nose below where her eyeglasses sit, adding that she might not be wearing glasses.
"We wanted to make sure that anybody out there that wanted to help us find Jessica," Gay Moore, Jessica's great-aunt said in an interview for a Denver television station, adding that there are flyers on Facebook that people can print and post around the neighborhood.
Jessica Ridgeway was last seen Friday morning after leaving home to meet friends at a Westminster park on her way to school.
Police say the only item found so far that they can link to the girl is her backpack, found on a sidewalk in a neighborhood about six miles north of her home two days after she went missing.
Police had it analyzed at the state crime lab after taking DNA samples from her family.
Jessica Ridgeway's mother, Sarah, and her father, Jeremiah Bryant, made a plea for her return in an interview with a Denver television station Tuesday.
Bryant has been living recently with his grandmother Donna Moss in Independence, Mo. Moss said she last saw Jessica about six weeks ago when Jessica and her mother came through the Kansas City area on their way home from a vacation.
Court records indicate Bryant was ordered to pay Sarah Ridgeway $267 per month in child support in 2005. But Moss, a retired nurse, said the two families have always been on good terms and she saw Jessica about once a year.
"There has never been a custody issue with Jessica, and we've had a good relationship all along with" Jessica's mother, she said. "Whenever they go on vacation or whenever we can afford to go to Colorado or he can afford to go to Colorado without me, we get together and it's not a hostile environment of any kind. No way shape or form."
Court records also show Bryant was sentenced this summer to supervised probation in a domestic assault case in Missouri. Information on the alleged victim wasn't immediately available.
Jamie McGeehan, 30, the mother of two of Bryant's other children, said people have been asking her about Bryant.
"On behalf of our daughters, we would like to say that it doesn't matter what type of person their dad, Jeremiah Bryant, is. The point is to find Jessica. She is missing," McGeehan said. "Neither Sarah or Jeremiah have her. So please help us find her. ... I know he doesn't have her. We would tell Sarah right away if he did."
Police searched Moss' home Friday after telling her Jessica was missing.
"I said I'm sure I don't have any problem with you going through my house. We don't have Jessica and for God's sake if we don't have her and her mom doesn't have her please do everything you can to find her," Moss said.
Moss said police later told Bryant that Jessica was missing "and he absolutely came apart."
"It was like, 'My God, who would have my kid?' It does something to your head. It does something to your head or your heart or something."
Moss said that even though Jessica came from a broken relationship, "it wasn't a relationship that was ever ugly."
"It was a relationship that they were too young," Moss said.
She and Bryant's mother planned to head to Colorado on Tuesday and join Bryant. A prayer vigil is planned for Wednesday evening at an Independence park, Moss said.
"She's my rock. She's all of our rock. She's the one that when you're down, she's going to come along and she's going to make you laugh," said her mother Sarah Ridgeway.
"We want everyone out there to know who Jessica is ... so they can remember who she is so they can help bring her home safely," her mother said.
Denver media reported that an FBI evidence team arrived at the girl's home after family members left to record the interview Tuesday. FBI spokesman Dave Joly confirmed some team members were at the home but declined to discuss what they were doing.
Police spokesman Trevor Materasso implied that investigators were focusing attention on a possible abduction but refused to comment on what techniques police were using as they try to find her.
"We don't want to miss anything. We're going to cover our tracks," Materasso said.
He said her family has cooperated in the investigation from the start.
Searchers have also scoured open areas near where the backpack was found. Authorities planned to wrap up a search of some fields near her home on Tuesday and continue interviews with residents in Jessica's neighborhood.
More than 800 volunteers turned out for Saturday's search, and more than 400 leads have been called in to a tip line. Some of those volunteers planned to hold two vigils for Jessica on Tuesday evening.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.