WESTMINSTER, Colo. - A massive search was under way in Westminster early Saturday after an Amber Alert was issued for a 10-year-old girl who disappeared while walking to school Friday morning.
The Amber Alert was issued for Jessica Ridgeway at 9:15 p.m., because of the length of time she has been missing. An Amber Alert was not issued earlier due to protocols that must be met before the system can be activated, police said.
Police said Jessica was last seen walking to Chelsea Park in the area of 107th Avenue and Moore Street around 8:30 a.m. where she was to meet several friends before walking to Witt Elementary School.
Police said they don't think she was abducted by an acquaintance or relative. The girls' father lives in Missouri and has been accounted for there. They also said they don't think Jessica ran away because she is emotionally stable.
"We're using every resource we have," said Westminster police detective Trevor Materasso. "We were trying to use helicopters that search in the dark. Unfortunately, the weather has grounded those. Our fire department has brought in thermal-imaging equipment that sees in the dark, so we're out searching with that."
Police conducted area searches of the trails, parks and open spaces in the surrounding area. Officers also made door-to-door contact and notified approximately 12,775 residents by telephone.
A member of the FBI arrived after 10 p.m., according to 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart. About 50 people were search for Jessica late Friday night.
Materasso said the Jefferson County School District used its notification system to alert parents of students at Witt Elementary that Jessica was missing.
Jessica is 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 80 pounds. She has blonde, shoulder-length hair with blue eyes. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, black boots with pom poms, a black puffy jacket and pink and purple glasses. She also had a black and pink backpack with a Disney character on it.
Police said there was a long delay in reporting the girl missing as her disappearance wasn't noticed until after school.
Jefferson County Schools made a phone notification at about 10 am that Jessica was absent from school. This notification resulted in a voicemail, as her mother works at night and sleeps through the day. At approximately 4:30 pm, when Jessica’s mother received the voicemail, she alerted police that her daughter was missing.
Westminster police, search dogs, Rampart Search and Rescue, and dozens of neighbors searched the area for the girl Friday night. Police are asking that you don’t go out on your own and search. Police are coordinating search areas and random searching may disrupt the dogs currently being used.
At 11:30 p.m., police said they had brought in a new team of fresh search dogs to continue the hunt for Jessica.
Members of the public, friends and family started searching and police are asking that you don’t go out on your own and search. Police are coordinating search areas and random searching may disrupt the dogs currently being used.
There is a large greenbelt to the south of the area she was last seen, which is on the way to school.
Temperatures were expected to dip into the upper 20s overnight, with the possibility of snow.
Although Westminster police earlier tweeted they wanted the public to meet at a nearby Rec Center, they later asked the public not to come to the area because the search dogs need space to work.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ridgeway is asked to call Westminster police at 303-658-4360.