Jessica Ridgeway case: Austin Sigg trial ends, he begins life sentence for murder

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - The man who killed and dismembered Jessica Ridgeway and tried to kidnap a a jogger last year has begun his life sentence.

Tuesday, a judge sentenced Austin Sigg to life in prison, plus 86 years.

Sigg pleaded guilty to more than a dozen charges including murder, kidnapping, sexual assault of a child, sexual exploitation of a child and robbery.

Wednesday morning, Sigg woke up in an isolated prison cell in the Jefferson County Jail.

During Sigg's sentencing hearing, defense attorneys argued that the judge was required to sentence Sigg to life in prison with parole eligibility after 40 years. Prosecutors argued that because the crime was so heinous, the judge had more leeway.

The judge agreed to sentence Sigg to life in prison with parole eligibility after 40 years. Then he added another 86 years to the sentence -- 48 years for kidnapping, 24 years to life for sexual assault on a child, six years for sexual exploitation of a child and eight years for crimes related to the attack of the jogger. The judge ruled that the life sentence, plus 86 years should be served consecutively. That will keep Sigg in prison for the rest of his life.

Because Sigg was 17 at the time of his crimes, he was not eligible for the death penalty. However, the District Attorney's Officer asked for a sentence that would ensure Sigg's death behind bars.

"Something is simply broken in him that can't be fixed," Chief Deputy DA Hal Sergeant said.

-- Defense attorneys' presentation on Austin Sigg's life --

In court Tuesday, defense attorneys presented what they called mitigating evidence for the judge to consider.

They went through Sigg's medical history, school records and family life.

Attorneys said Sigg's mother reported a fall down three concrete steps and that she breathed paint fumes while she was pregnant.

When Sigg was born, he had an intestinal problem that required surgery and that he had several surgeries before age six.

Attorneys said Sigg had several head injuries from age two to 16.

They said he showed signs of a learning disability and ADD at age three to four. However, teachers throughout the years said he participated normally, was never disruptive and got along with everyone.

Attorneys talked about how Sigg's father moved out and abandoned the family when Sigg was a toddler. However, it was the step-mother who took Sigg to get treatment for an addiction to internet porn when he was 12.

While Sigg was given the opportunity to speak during the sentencing hearing, he declined.

-- Prosecution made its case for maximum sentence --

After the defense presented its case for mitigating factors, prosecutors gave their arguments for why Austin Sigg should get the maximum sentence.

"We have never seen an offense as heinous, depraved, whatever adjective you use," prosecutors said. "He’s broken, no one can explain what caused him to commit this behavior. What we know if this young man is dangerous. There is no fix for him. The only way to protect the community is to keep him confined forever."

While defense attorneys said Sigg has impaired executive functioning, prosecutors said his crime was meticulously planned.

"Any claim this man lacked the executive function ability to exercise a plan is proved false by what he did, by his actions," the prosecutor said.

"He waited at home until children would be walking to elementary school before searching for his prey," the prosecutor said. "He saw his prey and parked on the opposite side of the road. He waited until she was parallel to his car, opened his car, took one step and grabbed her. He had flex ties and bound her hands and feet."

-Note, the following details are difficult to read.

Prosecutors said Austin Sigg took Jessica Ridgeway to his home, took her upstairs and forced her to change clothes. He cut her hair. He had her in that room for an hour-and-a-half to two hours.

"It's painful to imagine what he did to her in that time," the prosecutor said. "We know from evidence, he sexually assaulted her."

He said Ridgeway's arms and head were bruised. Her tooth was chipped.

"He took two zip ties, got behind her and started to strangle her," the prosecutor said. "Those ties cut into his hands. He said he then used his hands to make sure she was dead. Because she still showed signs of life, put her face down in scalding hot water."

Prosecutors said Sigg dismembered Ridgeway and left her torso in a place where people would find her.

"Perhaps reveling in the shock it would create," prosecutors suggested.

"We have never seen an offense like this by a defendant under 18," prosecutors said.

Monday, family, friends, the Westminster Police chief, school officials and a psychologist testified.

-- Jessica's mom addresses Sigg --

While several friends and family members shared stories with the court Monday, Jessica's mother had only a simple message to share.

"I’m actually not going to say anything today,"Jessica's mother, Sarah Ridgeway, said. "I don’t think the defendant has the right to hear how he affected me, my family or who Jessica was."

"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," Sarah Ridgeway said.

-Learn more about Jessica Ridgeway, a little girl who loved purple and butterflies: http://ch7ne.ws/HUTDsM

-Learn more about the Lassy Project: http://www.thelassyproject.com/

-- Prosecution witnesses --

Austin Sigg is not a psychopath, but has psychopathic characteristics, according to a psychologist who testified Monday.

"I don't believe he is a psychopath," Dr. Anna Salter testified Monday.

However, Salter said Sigg has some characteristics of a psychopath such as callousness and a lack of a conscience. Salter said Sigg is not an antisocial offender. She said from his interest in porn, his interviews and other information she obtained, she believes that Sigg has a deviant sexual arousal pattern.

"Records suggest he is sadistic and a necrophiliac --  you can tell from his pornography and behavior," Salter testified.

Salter has not met Sigg or interviewed anyone who knows him. She testified in court that her diagnosis was based on records provided by the prosecution.

The defense objected to Salter's testimony saying she is not a psychiatrist, not a medical doctor and not licensed to practice in Colorado. Defense attorneys challenged her opinion and qualifications, but the judge allowed the testimony. Salter's website said she evaluates sex offenders for civil commitment proceedings and other purposes.

"This crime, beginning with the assault on the Ketner jogger, installed fear in our community," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk testified Monday. "Children were afraid to go to school, afraid to enjoy the parks. Parents were afraid to let their kids go to school."

Birk said the investigation into Jessica Ridgeway's kidnapping was the biggest criminal case the city of Westminster has ever been involved in.

"I’ve never seen my community hurt more and suffer more," Birk said. "Never having seen a case like this, that involved such a pure act of evil, pure callousness, if this were a death penalty, I would be urging you to impose that penalty, sir. I am certainly urging you, sir, to impose the maximum penalty possible."

-- Jogger speaks out --

The jogger attacked by Sigg was not in court Monday, but did answer some questions about the attack.

She said she has been afraid to run even on the treadmill in her own basement since she was attacked in May 2012.

On May 28, 2012 the then 22-year-old woman was jogging at Ketner Lake in Westminster when a man grabbed her from behind and tried to put a chemical-laced rag over her mouth, police said.

The woman told police the rag smelled like gasoline. The woman said she struggled with the man, but managed to push him off and escape. When she ran into the nearby neighborhood, she said the attacker ran the other way, according to affidavit obtained by 7NEWS.

The jogger, whose name is not being released publicly, said when she looks at her crawl space, she thinks about Jessica and how she could have had the same outcome.

"I often think of what would have happened," the jogger said.

"The lake I played at as a child is no longer safe and it will take much more time before I can go back there alone," the jogger said. "It never occurred to me, prior to the crime, that there were vicious, malicious murderers among us."


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