AURORA, Colo. - Speaking publicly for the first time since her daughter's murderer was sentenced to more than a lifetime in prison, Jessica Ridgeway's mother wanted to focus not on the killer or the circumstances surrounding Jessica's murder, but instead the work inspired by the crime.
"[Jessica] wouldn't want me to sit and not do anything, she'd want me to get out there and make a difference," Sarah Ridgeway said during her exclusive interview with CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.
Jessica Ridgeway was kidnapped on the morning of Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, while walking to a park where she would meet friends so they could walk to school together. Later that afternoon, Sarah reported Jessica missing after finding out she had never arrived at school.
An Amber Alert was issued, and a massive search for Jessica began.
The investigation ended with the tragic discovery of Jessica's remains and the confession her murderer made. This month, the killer was sentenced to life plus at least 86 years in prison.
At the sentencing, Sarah Ridgeway made only a short statement.
She said, in part, "Once we walk out of this courtroom, we'll not remember his name, we'll only remember Jessica and the legacy she created and the Lassy Project in which she inspired."
The Lassy Project is an app that allows parents to create different routes that their kids commonly take such as walking to school or going to a friend's house. If the child strays from the designated path, then an alert is immediately sent to the parents' phone.
"I don't want any other kid to go missing or go through what Jessica did," Sarah said.
After getting an alert from the app, the parent can then choose to call the child and investigate. If the child is safe, the parent can dismiss the alert. But if there is a problem and the child goes missing, the parent can push a single button to activate "The Village" -- a group of local community members who have registered -- to begin search efforts as soon as possible near the child's last known location.
-- Sarah Ridgeway, 7NEWS and The Lassy Project tested the app Tuesday, with fantastic results. Read about the test: http://ch7ne.ws/1cNiPea --
In addition to putting herself out there as an advocate for the app by raising awareness and getting people signed up, Sarah Ridgeway plays a critical role behind the scenes at the Lassy Project, running what is called the "Escalation Team."
"When the parents do escalate it and say their child is missing, I run the team that answers the phone for that," Sarah explained. "Right now, I am actually answering the phone when they call."
Marchetta asked, "Did you want that job, did you feel compelled to have that role?"
"It certainly helps other parents to know I'm not just saying, 'I understand.' I do understand," Sarah answered.
Sarah went on to explain how the strength to do this job comes from the memory of Jessica.
"She pushes me, whether she's here or not, I feel her in the background telling me, 'This is what you're supposed to be doing,'" Sarah said.
During the interview, Sarah Ridgeway was wearing purple -- Jessica's favorite color. On her necklace, Sarah wore a ring with purple stones that was given to her by Westminster Police. The other tear-shaped charm is stamped with Jessica's fingerprint on one side and Jessica's signature from a homework assignment on the other.
"I wear it every day. She's close to me, she travels with me. I know she's with me all the time." Sarah said.
The park Jessica was walking to on the day she disappeared has been renamed Jessica Ridgeway Memorial Park. The remodeled park features purple slides and swings. It includes a dragon fly teeter-totter and is speckled with butterflies, an insect Jessica loved.
"She's gonna live on," Sarah Ridgeway says of her daughter. "Whether it's through the Lassy Project… We have the foundation we started. She'll live on forever and ever, longer than she would have lived."
Sarah Ridgeway says she has not been sleeping well and understandably feels a range of emotions about her daughter's memory.
"I just want to remember her face," she said. "I don't want to remember what happened to her."
With the court process complete and sentencing passed, the courts are making public documents that had previously been sealed in the case. Sarah Ridgeway says she wants to avoid all of that information.
"I don't know anything about the last few hours," she said. "My health can't take that."
She was in court for the end of the case, however, and knows the teenager who confessed to taking her daughter will not pose a danger to anyone else again.
"I know that moving on -- moving on in Jessica's honor -- is what she'd want me to do."
For mobile users: You can learn more about the Lassy Project at http://www.thelassyproject.com