GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado teen pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and kidnapping in the kidnap-slaying and dismemberment of a 10-year-old girl that panicked Denver-area residents last fall — despite police testimony that the suspect confessed to the crime.
Austin Sigg, 18, stunned a courtroom by entering the not guilty pleas in the death of Jessica Ridgeway in the Denver suburb of Westminster. Sigg also pleaded not guilty to a May attack on a 22-year-old jogger at a lake in Jessica’s neighborhood.
Sigg’s not guilty pleas came despite his alleged confession and the discovery of some of the girl’s remains at his home.
Jessica disappeared while walking to school on Oct. 5, leading parents to take extraordinary precautions to keep their children safe. Residents were encouraged to report suspicious behavior by neighbors.
If convicted, Sigg would face life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. He cannot face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the slaying.
Sigg is charged with murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery. Prosecutors added three counts of sexual exploitation of a child because child pornography was allegedly found during the investigation. Sigg denied to investigators that he sexually assaulted Jessica.
Jessica, a fifth grader, disappeared after she left her house to meet a friend two blocks away on their way to school. Hundreds of police and residents searched for her, and parents escorted their children to and from school. The FBI asked residents to report suspicious behavior by friends, neighbors and even family members. Her torso was found in a secluded park Oct. 10.
A resident contacted authorities Oct. 19 to report Sigg because he reportedly had a fascination with death, Westminster police Detective Luis Lopez testified at a preliminary hearing. Two FBI agents took a DNA sample from Sigg. His mother called 911 on Oct. 23, saying he wanted to confess. Lopez said Sigg’s DNA was found on Jessica’s clothing.
Investigators said Sigg told them that some of Jessica’s remains were hidden in a crawl space in his mother’s home, where he lived.
Detectives said he described how he abducted Jessica as she walked past his car, bound her arms and her legs, drove around for a little bit then took her to his house. There, he told investigators, he tried to strangle her and then used his hands to kill her. He also allegedly told investigators that he dismembered Jessica in a bathtub.
Lopez testified that Sigg attended a community college and took classes in mortuary sciences.
Jessica’s father lives in the Kansas City, Mo., area.