(DENVER) — Authorities hunting for the person who killed and dismembered 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway said Tuesday there is a “definitive link” between her case and the attempted abduction of a jogger in the same area earlier this year.
Police also warned that the killer is “still in the community.”
“We are able to make a definitive link,” Westminster Police Department spokesman Trevor Materasso told ABC News. “We’re certain that there’s a connection between the two cases and that’s how we’re moving forward with the investigation.”
On May 28, at around 1:15 p.m., a 22-year-old woman was running on a trail around Ketner Lake when she said a man tried to grab her from behind, police said. The woman said he tried to put a rag over her mouth that had a chemical smell. She was able to get away and call 911.
The suspect was described as a white male, between 5-feet-6 and 5-feet-8 with brown hair and average build.
Jessica Ridgeway vanished five months later on Oct. 5 when she left for school. The fifth-grader never showed up at a nearby park where she was supposed to meet friends for the one-mile walk to her elementary school.
After an extensive search of the area, including knocking on doors and FBI road blocks, Jessica’s dismembered body was found on Oct. 10 in an Arvada, Colo., park, miles from where she was abducted.
Though the public has been on edge during the hunt for the suspect who killed Ridgeway, investigators are asking the community to be patient, saying that they must be very careful about what they disclose since the killer is on the loose.
“We don’t have the perpetrator identified,” Materasso said. “He is still in the community and considering the heinous nature of Jessica’s case, we have to be even more careful that we’re not disclosing information that could hinder our ability to identify or apprehend the suspect.”
Authorities announced last week that they were turning their attention to two earlier attempted abductions at Ketner Lake.
Investigators said that they were looking into a possible connection between the cases “due to the time frame and geographic proximity of Jessica’s disappearance and the attempted abduction.”
Police said they were concerned that a jogger was chased by a man in the same area in July 2010. The suspect described in 2010 was similar to the case from this year, but authorities are not saying that the 2010 case was related to Ridgeway.
“We’re still concerned about the 2010 case, but at this time, we’re not able to make a definite connection one way or another,” Materasso said Tuesday. “We don’t make a connection lightly.”
He said police are also looking into a case reported in Aurora, Colo., this week where a woman said that a man in a parking lot tried to put a towel over her face while another man in a car asked for directions. She was able to fight the man off and get away.
“The Aurora police department is conducting an investigation in their city and working with our team of law enforcement, but, at this point, there’s no way for us to say if there is any connection,” Materasso said.
Police are asking that anyone with any information regarding Ridgeway’s abduction or the attempted abductions at the lake please contact them at 303-658-4336 or by email at PDamberalert@cityofwestminster.us.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Jackson Adams, Teton Valley News
Robert Boyd, KSTU