An 18-year-old told a 911 dispatcher last fall that he kidnapped and killed a missing suburban Denver school girl and had hidden her remains in a crawl space at his mother's home, according to a recording played by a prosecutor in court Friday.
The recording was played at a preliminary hearing at which a judge decided there's enough evidence for Austin Sigg to stand trial in both the death of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway in October and an attack on a jogger at nearby Ketner Lake in May. Ridgeway’s father, Jeremiah Bryant, lives in Independence.
Sigg is charged with murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery. Prosecutors also added three counts of sexual exploitation of a child because they said child pornography was found during the investigation.
Jessica's disappearance on her way to school set parents in the Denver area on edge for weeks last October. Hundreds of officers canvassed the area, investigated leads and took DNA samples as parents waited with their children at bus stops and thought twice about letting them out of sight. Her family in Independence followed the case closely.
On Oct. 23, Sigg's mother called 911 to say her son wanted to turn himself in and had confessed to killing the girl. When the dispatcher asked what Austin Sigg said, Mindy Sigg replied, “That he did it, and he gave me details, and her remains are in my house.”
She can be heard crying and asking if her son will talk to the dispatcher, who asks him general questions.
“I don't exactly get why you're asking me these questions. I murdered Jessica Ridgeway. I have proof that I did it,” Austin Sigg said. “You have to send a squad car down here, and I'll answer any questions you want to ask me.”
He also said the remains were in a crawl space.
When asked about his criminal record, he told the dispatcher: “The only other thing that I have done was the Ketner Lake incident where the woman got attacked. That was me.”
The teen reportedly had told his mother he kidnapped Jessica as she walked past his car, bound her arms and her legs, placed her in the back seat, drove around for a little bit, then took her to his house, said Westminster police Detective Michael Lynch, who interviewed Mindy Sigg.
He said the teen had Jessica change clothes and tried to strangle her, first with zip ties and later with his hands. He said he then took the girl's body to a bathtub where he dismembered her using a saw, Lynch testified.
“Austin said that he didn't rape her,” Lynch said. “It was a comment he had made right off the bat, `I didn't rape her. I didn't torture her.“’
The teen had been on investigators' radar before his mother turned him in. A neighbor called a tip line suggesting they check him out because he seemed preoccupied with death, Westminster police Detective Luis Lopez said.
Two FBI agents responded and took a DNA sample from Sigg on Oct. 19, four days before his mother called 911.
Lopez said Sigg's DNA – the kind left behind by touching something – was found on Jessica's clothing, but no semen was found.
The judge originally ordered the hearing Friday to be closed to the public but the Colorado Supreme Court sided with media organizations who argued that he failed to show that holding the hearing in public would jeopardize Sigg's right to a fair trial.
Some of Jessica's remains were found in garbage bags in an open space park five days after she disappeared. Friday was the first time investigators revealed that the bags contained her torso. Lopez said she died of asphyxiation.
The case set parents in the Denver area on edge as weeks passed without an arrest. Hundreds of officers canvassed the area, investigated leads and took DNA samples as parents waited with their children at bus stops and thought twice about letting them out of sight.
Police asked residents to look for anything suspicious from their bosses, friends and family members, watching for things like leaving home unexpectedly, missing appointments or changing their appearance.
Lopez said Sigg's mother turned her son in a day before testing was completed on the DNA sample taken based on the neighbor's tip.
Former classmates of Sigg described him as smart and interested in mortuary science.
Arraignment is set for March 12.