Westminster Colorado Police Department, Associated Press
ARVADA, Colo. — More than 2,000 friends, family and community members gathered Tuesday to remember a 10-year-old Colorado girl who was abducted on her way to school and killed.
Even as the public memorial was held, multiple agencies were checking leads and asking for more tips in their hunt for the killer of Jessica Ridgeway, the fifth-grader who was abducted Oct. 5 on her way to school in suburban Denver.
The evening service at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada opened with a slideshow of pictures set to Jessica's favorite songs, including "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen. Many attendees wore Jessica's favorite color, purple.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose son is Jessica's age, told those gathered that everyone in the state is with the Ridgeways. And Pastor Rick Long of Grace Church in Arvada said community support has been lifting Jessica's family.
Cases like this — in which a child apparently is abducted and killed by a stranger — are "the ones that shock entire communities and scare us all," said Robert Lowery, senior executive director of the missing children's division at the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.
Authorities have been tight-lipped about the investigation since they announced Friday that a body found on the edge of town belonged to Jessica.
The girl was last seen alive walking down a quiet street in her modest Westminster neighborhood. Her school backpack was found three days later in Superior, another Denver suburb about 7 miles northwest of her home.
Jessica's body was found Oct. 10, the same day authorities ruled out her parents as suspects in her disappearance. Her body was found along a remote road that locals say few knew about.
Authorities usually are reserved in what they say to the public, out of concern for causing unnecessary alarm. But they issued a statement last week advising residents to be suspicious of their bosses, friends and family members.
Authorities asked the public to keep an eye out for people exhibiting unusual behavior — like leaving town unexpectedly, missing appointments, consuming unusual amounts of alcohol or changing their appearance. The idea was that the killer would not be able to act normally after committing the crime.
"They may have no suspects," said Kenneth Lanning, a retired FBI behavior analyst in Fredericksburg, Va., who is now a consultant specializing in crimes against children. "But likely at this point, they have so many suspects and now they're trying to sort through them."
Lanning is not involved in the Colorado case but described such investigations as multi-track efforts, with volunteers and deputies searching homes, bushes, drainages and open space near the child's house while investigators develop a criminal case.
Police likely are pouring through hours of surveillance video taken at banks, gas stations, government buildings and elsewhere, Lanning said.
In Cody, Wyo., where an 11-year-old girl was abducted and sexually assaulted Oct. 8, police were able to get a license plate number from surveillance video at Yellowstone National Park that led them to a suspect in Montana. The girl was released hours after her abduction.
Investigators also have statistical data based on past crimes of this type that could provide a general profile of who may have committed the crime, Lanning and FBI profiler Clinton Van Zandt said.
Neither Lanning nor Van Zandt would provide an opinion on the Colorado case, saying each case is unique.
However, a 2006 report funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and compiled by Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna determined the majority of suspects in such cases are single and between 18 and 30 years old.
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