DENVER - Westminster police say that a wooden cross found by investigators in the Jessica Ridgeway case could be a pivotal piece of evidence that helps authorities identify the 10-year-old girl's killer.
The cross, 1-inch wide and 1-1/2 inches tall, has a hole drilled sideways through the top, possibly for use on a necklace.
Dr. Mark Holiday, a retired school teacher and previous instructor of art history at St. John's University in Minnesota, told 7NEWS that no one seems to know the origin of the cross, but his hunch is that "it's a one-of-a-kind hand-carved piece."
But, Ray Gerken, owner of Gerken Religious Supplies, said the cross may be mass-produced.
"I've been through a lot of my catalogs, looking for something like that," Gerken said. "I haven't found anything yet."
When asked why he thought it was mass-produced, Gerken said because of the hole drilled through the side.
"If the cross was hand made," he said, "the individual may not have taken the time to drill a hold in the top."
University of Denver Religious Studies Professor Carl Raschke describes the object as a Celtic cross, "which was common during the Middle Ages in Ireland and the British Isles."
"It's a fairly common artifact," he said. "You probably could get them at a metaphysical book store."
Raschke notes that the the cross contains three vertical scratches on one side and a zigzag and several nicks on the other.
Raschke, who also studies cults, wouldn't speculate on the three vertical scratches, but said the zigzag and nicks could be significant.
"The zigzag is a stylized 'S,'" he said. "It's like a lightning bolt. It probably has something to do with somebody who's into magic or wizardry or something like that. It could also be neo-Nazism."
Raschke said the nicks adjacent to the zigzag are even more interesting.
"Those look like somebody is stabbing the cross with a knife and may very well have been doing that because they hate Christians. It could be some kind of ritual way of showing (their) contempt for Christianity."
Holiday said whoever made the cross may not have been the last one to possess it.
Police aren't saying where the cross was found. Nor will they say whether the owner left it behind accidentally or intentionally.
Raschke says it's possible that someone left it behind to taunt investigators.
"If so," he said, "that person is really full of himself. They think they have the power and that no one can touch them."
Westminster police believe there is a connection between the Jessica Ridgeway slaying and the attempted abduction of a jogger at Ketner Lake in May.
They're urging the public to call police if they know someone who had such a cross and who matches the suspect's description from the Ketner Lake incident. Here's the description:
- Light skinned male
- 18 - 35 years old
- Brown hair
- Medium build
- 5' 6" to 5' 8" tall