Investigators continue to comb through the park area Thursday where a body was found on Leyden Road in west Arvada. It is unconfirmed whether the remains
Investigators continue to comb through the park area Thursday where a body was found on Leyden Road in west Arvada. It is unconfirmed whether the remains are involved in the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

WESTMINSTER — Anyone who has begun acting strange or differently since the disappearance of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway on Oct. 5 could be a suspect, the FBI said Thursday.

The change could be something as minor as shaving a beard, parking in a different location or becoming incensed by the constant news coverage of the case or trying to change the subject if the case comes up, the agency's Denver spokesman, Dave Joly, told reporters Thursday.

"It could be your boss, it could be your friend, and ultimately it could be your family member," he said. "Bring this information to law enforcement, and let us vet that."

The person responsible — most likely a man, based on unspecified information — may suddenly miss work or scheduled appointments. He may leave town, with no explanation or with some plausible reason.

Joly said sometimes people may unknowingly be associated with the offender but could be in a position to observe behavioral changes in that person.

The FBI news conference came one day after officials announced that a body had been discovered near the Pattridge Park Open Space. That body was "not intact," and police did not expect to confirm the identity of the body until Friday at the earliest.

The body was found about 7 miles southwest of Jessica's home and 11 miles south of where Jessica's backpack was found in Superior.

On Thursday, divers searched Standley Lake, about a mile from Jessica's home. Joly, however, would not comment directly on any aspect of the ongoing investigation.

"We're leaving no stone unturned," he summarized.

Retirees Tom and Elsa White had watched from across the lake as divers worked, they said.

"It's a nightmare, the whole thing," Tom White said. "I wish I didn't even know this is all going on. I know things like this go on in the world, but the world is out there and our lake is right here.

"Now that I've seen (the investigators), it's more real. It's right here in our community."

Elsa White added, "And it's not ever going to leave."

Thursday afternoon, police were guarding the front door of the home where Jessica was seen heading for school last Friday morning.

Westminster police spokesman Trevor Materasso said early Thursday that canvassing in Westminster neighborhoods near where Jessica disappeared will continue, as will searches in other open-space areas.

Federal and police investigators had swarmed a grassy area north of West 82nd Avenue and east of a BFI landfill where the body was discovered Wed-nesday. They were aided by lights and used a firetruck's extended ladder to get a better view. Their work was focused near a building that appears to be a remnant of an old mining operation.

Parts of some roads remained closed Thursday as investigators worked the crime scene where the body was found in Arvada near the Pattridge Park Open Space. Arvada police said that includes West 82nd Avenue between Colorado 93 and Indiana Street.

Jessica was last seen at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 5 as she left her home on Moore Street in Westminster. She was to meet with classmates at nearby Chelsea Park to walk to Witt Elementary, but she never arrived at school that morning. Her mother, Sarah Ridgeway, a night-shift worker, slept during the day and awoke to find a message that her daughter never made it to school and reported her missing around 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 5.

On Sunday, Jessica's backpack was found in Superior. Police have said it is being analyzed for DNA evidence.

Investigators have ruled out Jessica's parents as possible suspects in the 10-year-old's disappearance, focusing on an unknown suspect who is believed to have abducted her.

On Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that the case of a child abduction in Cody, Wyo., is not related to Jessica's disappearance. In the Cody case, an 11-year-old girl and a friend were approached Monday by a man in a white sport utility vehicle who asked for help finding his lost puppy. When the 11-year-old approached the vehicle, the man showed a pistol and told her to get into the front passenger seat.

The girl was released, but the perpetrator is still at large.

Staff writers Jeremy P. Meyer and Kieran Nicholson contributed to this report.


How to help

Westminster police spokesman Trevor Materasso says they are still encouraging witnesses to come forward and call the tip line at 303-658-4336.