As the search for missing 10-year-old Westminster, Colorado girl Jessica Ridgeway enters day 5, authorities are continuing their search efforts around Jessica's home and open-field areas in the suburban Denver area with the help of air support and dogs.
At a Tuesday morning press conference, Westminster Police announced that the investigation may focus more on an abduction, rather than the child being a possible runaway, and that they will be releasing new photos and video of Jessica to help people identify the young girl. Watch 9News video of the press conference below.
Trevor Matarasso, Westminster Police spokesperson, said that he wants people to pay special attention to Jessica's facial features, rather than her clothing, via 9News:
We really want people to focus on Jessica's facial features. Two things of note that you will see - particularly in the video - she has a gap between her two front teeth, when you see that video, it's fairly obvious and a distinguishing characteristic. As well, she's got a sore at the top of her nose just below where her glasses sit. That sore doesn't heal, so it's a good indicator if you see someone you think is Jessica those two things are good to pay particular attention to.
Meanwhile, volunteers have continued to post flyers around the suburban Denver area with photos and information about Jessica to help with the search. Community members have also been hosting and attending vigils for Jessica -- a pair of which are planned for Tuesday night in Westminster at Kensington Park and in Superior at Community Park. Both vigils begin at 7 p.m., participants are asked to bring a flashlight and wear purple and green ribbons. For more information, visit the Missing Jessica Ridgeway Facebook page.
On Monday, search efforts intensified around fields and highways in suburban Denver as well as the fifth-grader's home in Westminster where she lives with her mother and a neighborhood 6 miles away where a backpack was discovered that is believed to belong to the 10-year-old, the Associated Press reports.
FBI investigators have also been in contact with family members in Independence, Mo. Fox31 first reported that Jessica's father, Jeremiah Bryant, was convicted of second degree domestic assault in Missouri and is currently on felony criminal probation. Bryant was the first of Ridgeway's family members to make a public statement, telling Missouri media outlets that he is devastated to hear his daughter has gone missing.
Jessica was last seen on Friday, Oct. 5th around 8:30 a.m. making the three-block-walk to Chelsea Park where she usually meets a group of friends to walk to school with, but authorities say she never made it that far.
On Sunday, investigators say they found a backpack and water bottle believed to be Jessica's in the town of Superior, about six miles away from where she was last seen. The water bottle had her name on it and investigators are pursuing leads.
An Amber Alert went out late Friday night and the Westminster Police Department said that the FBI joined search efforts that same night.
One of Colorado's state criteria for issuing an Amber Alert is that the child must be in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death, though police didn't say there is any indication she was abducted.
However, Westminster Police say that they got a late start searching for Jessica because her mother--who works the graveyard shift--hadn't realized she was missing since she slept through calls made from the school when Jessica didn't show.
Her mother said she arrived home at 7:30 a.m. and last saw Jessica around 8:30 a.m. when she watched her start walking to the park.
The Westminster Police Department has said that it has had over 800 volunteers help look for Jessica on Saturday, have been using bloodhounds, a helicopter, dive teams and contacted Jessica's father who lives in another state.
"At this time we don't have any indication he is involved in any way," Westminster police spokeswoman Cheri Spottke told MSNBC.
Police said dive teams used sonar technology to rule out nearby Ketner Reservoir and found nothing.
On Twitter, police asked people not to conduct their own uncoordinated searches for Jessica because it "disrupts police dogs."
This morning police say they have sent out a new team of bloodhounds that reportedly picked up on a scent Friday, but it may have been older than Friday morning when Jessica disappeared.
Police are monitoring social media sites and tip lines for anyone with any information. Jessica is 4'10," 80 pounds, has shoulder-length blonde hair, blue eyes and was last seen wearing a black jacket with pink and purple eyeglasses. Anyone with any information is being asked to call the Westminster Police tip line: 303-658-4336 or email PDamberalert@cityofwestminster.us.
This story has been updated to include the finding of Jessica Ridgeway's backpack and water bottle by police on Sunday.