WESTMINSTER, Colo. - The teenager accused of kidnapping and murdering Jessica Ridgeway one year ago pleaded guilty to the grisly crime. Austin Sigg entered the plea just hours before opening statements were scheduled to begin in his trial.
The teenager's plea was announced and accepted during a 2 p.m. hearing at Jefferson County Court.
Chief Judge Stephen M. Munsinger asked, "To all of these charges, how do you plea?"
Sigg, who wore dress clothes in court, responded, "Guilty, your honor."
Sigg entered the guilty plea Tuesday against his attorneys' advice. He pleaded guilty to all counts, which included kidnapping, sex assault and murder in the Ridgeway case. He also pleaded guilty to the attempted kidnapping of a jogger at Ketner Lake.
On the murder charge alone, Sigg faces a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. Sentencing is scheduled for November 18-19.
Ridgeway was kidnapped as she walked to school in Westminster on Oct. 5, 2012. Her disappearance triggered a massive search that ended with the discovery of her dismembered remains five days later in an open space field in Arvada.
The families of Ridgeway and Sigg were both in the courtroom wearing purple, Jessica's favorite color. 7NEWS Reporter Amanda Kost observed that Jessica's mother walked out of the room as a prosecutor explained the details of the crime.
Sigg previously pleaded not guilty to 18 counts, and prosecutors had suggested the defense was considering a "mental state defense."
However, Sigg had allegedly confessed to a 911 operator and during a videotaped interview after his arrest. Prosecutors said Tuesday in that confession Sigg said he was out "hunting" when he pulled over and grabbed Ridgeway.
In addition to accepting the guilty plea, Munsinger also decided to lift the gag order on the case. That allowed the district attorneys and investigators to discuss the case after the hearing concluded.
"Today Austin Sigg was held accountable for the despicable things he's done and the horrors he perpetrated on our community," DA Peter Weir said.
Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk thanked the Ridgeway family for trusting the investigators.
"They're an amazing family," he said.
Sigg, who is now 18, cannot face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the killing.