Two days later, they found Jessica’s Disney backpack and her water bottle about nine kilometres away from her home. Then, three days after that, a far more horrifying discovery.Human remains, identified as Jessica’s torso, were found in black bin bags on open land.
The rescue mission was over. Now police were searching for a killer.
Close to the remains, officers found a small, wooden cross necklace. Did it hold a clue to who had taken Jessica’s life?
Having ruled out her shattered family, police had no solid leads to go on. With a child killer at large in the
close-knit community, people were frightened.
Then, almost two weeks after Jessica vanished, a woman called the police tip line. She’d recognised the cross necklace from a news report about the murder. She said it looked exactly like one that belonged to her neighbour, 17-year-old Austin Sigg.
The caller expressed concerns about his behaviour, saying he had dropped out of high school and had a strange obsession with death. Cops brought Sigg in, took a DNA sample and then sent him home again.
But a few days later, they received another call. This time it was Austin Sigg’s mother, Mindy. She asked for police to come over right away.
‘My son wants to turn himself in for the Jessica Ridgeway murder,’ she said.
She was so distraught she was struggling to breathe.
Then she put Austin on the phone and he made his chilling confession.
‘I murdered Jessica Ridgeway, I have proof that I did it. There is no other question,’ he said calmly. ‘I’m giving myself up completely. There will be no resistance whatsoever.’
Rushing over to his house, police arrested Sigg and charged him with Jessica’s murder.
Meanwhile, Austin’s history emerged.
When he was 12, Mindy had caught her son watching child pornography and sent him to therapy.
It hadn’t helped and he’d carried on viewing porn, the videos becoming more depraved over time. And, like his neighbour said, he was obsessed with death. He’d even studied to become a mortician.
His computer search history showed he’d wanted to kill for a long time. He’d looked up chloroform recipes and the top 10 places people get abducted.
Then, Sigg made a second confession. Four months earlier, he’d tried to kidnap a woman who was out jogging.
He’d shoved a chloroform soaked rag under her nose, but she’d managed to fight him off and escape.
That’s when Sigg realised he’d need a smaller, weaker victim. So, while out ‘hunting’ as he described it, he came across Jessica on that fateful morning.
Pulling up beside her in his gold Jeep, Sigg dragged her into the back seat, binding her hands and feet with zip ties. He drove with her screaming in the back.
Taking her to his home, Sigg had kept her prisoner in his bedroom for hours. He showed her a film, cut her hair and forced her to change into a shirt and shorts. Then he sexually assaulted and strangled her.
Sigg dismembered her body in the bathtub before putting her remains into bin bags and hiding them in a shed in the backyard.
Then, panicked that police were using sniffer dogs, he fetched them from the shed and put her torso in a field, and the rest of her body parts in the crawl space of his home and down the toilet.
He’d then dumped her backpack to throw police off the scent. But after police took a DNA sample, Sigg had a panic attack. Eventually, he’d confessed to his horrified mum.
Then, courageous Mindy had picked up the phone to turn her son in. Sigg calmly described himself as a monster.
‘There’s no better way to describe what I’ve done than evil,’ he told investigators.
In court, Jessica’s family shared photos of the youngster growing up.
‘I miss her with every breath,’ said Christine Ridgeway, Jessica’s grandmother. ‘There are no more hugs and kisses, or her little toes digging into mine on the couch.’
Just shy of his 18th birthday, Sigg wasn’t eligible for the death penalty but was sentenced to life in prison plus 86 years for Jessica’s kidnapping and murder and for charges related to the jogger he attacked.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Hal Sargent found it hard to describe the crime.
‘Perhaps Austin Sigg’s words are best,’ he said. Evil.