Police explore possible Wyo. link to missing girl

Updated at: 10/10/2012 10:35 AM
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(AP) WESTMINSTER, Colo. - Authorities investigating the disappearance of a 10-year-old Colorado girl are looking into whether it could be linked to the abduction of a girl in Wyoming as they continue searching land and water near Jessica Ridgeway’s home.

Police in the Denver suburb of Westminster are talking with investigators in Cody, Wyo., about 500 miles away, spokesman Trevor Materasso said Wednesday.

A man lured an 11-year-old girl there into a sport utility vehicle Monday saying he needed help finding his puppy. She was released about four hours later and found by hunters. Police there say they’re looking for a white man between 55 and 60 years old with short strawberry blond or white hair and a neatly trimmed mustache.

Jessica was last seen Friday after leaving home to meet friends at a park on her way to school.

Two days later, the fifth-grader’s backpack was found on a sidewalk in a neighborhood about six miles north of her home. Police won’t discuss what was found inside the bag or the results of testing done on it.

Materasso said searchers were scouring Jessica’s neighborhood and divers were searching ponds as a "precautionary measure" to see if they can be ruled out as having a connection to Jessica’s disappearance. Police also have isolated landfill garbage collected around the time of the girl’s disappearance but will search through it only if their investigation points them in that direction, he said.

Police have revealed little about their investigation and have instead tried to keep the focus on Jessica. They’ve asked the public to study her face in various photos they’ve released showing her with and without glasses. They’re also encouraging people to keep tweeting about her in the hopes that will develop new leads.

On Sunday, a sighting of Jessica in a car with Colorado license plates was reported more than 2,000 miles away in Maine. Dexter, Maine, police Sgt. Alan Grinnell said officers don’t know if it really was Jessica spotted in the town of 5,000 people, but authorities have issued a statewide alert for officers to stop a blue Buick station wagon with Colorado plates if they see one. So far, none have been stopped. The car’s license plate number isn’t known.

Police say Jessica’s family has been cooperative, but Materasso said he wouldn’t discuss whether they have been ruled out as being involved with the disappearance. He told KOA-AM that investigators are checking out people identified by tips and there are no persons of interest yet.

"We know she’s out there, and we want to bring her home," Materasso told the station.

Jessica’s mother, Sarah Ridgeway of Westminster, and her father, Jeremiah Bryant of Independence, Mo., issued their first public call for help finding their daughter in a television interview Tuesday.

"I want her to come walking back through that door," Sarah Ridgeway told KUSA-TV in Denver. "I need her to come walking back through that door."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)