WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- Authorities on Friday have confirmed that a body found in a suburban Denver park is that of missing 10-year-old girl Jessica Ridgeway.
Ridgeway disappeared last Friday morning while walking to school.
On Wednesday afternoon, workers picking up trash in an Arvada, Colorado, park a few miles from where Ridgeway disappeared found the body. But police had not confirmed that the body, which was described as "not intact," was that of the girl until Friday afternoon
Ridgeway's body was identified via DNA testing, authorities said.
“Our focus has changed from a search for Jessica to a mission for justice for Jessica,” said Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk. “There is a predator at large in our community. We are doing everything in our power to apprehend that predator."
“This is an unthinkable end to an unthinkable crime in our community,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in a statement following Friday afternoon's press conference.
Jessica's father, Jeremy Ridgeway - along with aunt's, uncles, cousins and friends - all live in Independence. For more than a week now they've been waiting on pins and needles, praying that Jessica was found alive - and now they are taking the news that the body is hers very hard.
"My heart just sank," said Kathy Moss, Jessica's great-aunt.
Jessica's aunt says the thought of a kidnapper snatching Jessica is hard enough, but to think what she went through while in his hands, she says is sickening.
"To mutilate a body like I heard that they did, I wish it could be done to him," Moss said.
Family and friends spent Friday afternoon making purple and green ribbons - Jessica's favorite color - to hand out, hoping someone would find their baby girl.
"I just went and made flyers today and been passing them out. And I feel like, you know, I feel like I waited too long," said Kathy Kress, a longtime friend of Jessica's father.
"As soon as they said it was her. I lost it, we lost it, we all did," added Amy Stubbs, who dated Jeremy Ridgeway for six years.
To them Jessica was a bright, beautiful, bubbly kid. Too smart, they say, to fall into the hands of a stranger.
"She was so smart, I don't think she would have gone with anybody willingly. They had to have snatched her. She was too smart for that," Stubbs said.
"She did not go willingly," said Moss.
While the search for Jessica has ended, authorities in Colorado say justice for Jessica begins.
"All these sick people that keep taking our babies are killing our future. They are taking our future. She was our future," said Kress.
"I hope they catch him and I hope they send him in there forever," Moss said.
"I hope he rots in hell," said Stubbs.
The family here in the metro will be holding a rememberance for Jessica on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in McCoy Park. A website is in the process of being set up. Donations are being taken to help pay for the funeral - any other money raised will go torward the reward fund for the capture of Jessica's killer.