As parents, we try our best to keep our children safe in an uncertain world. We tell them not to talk to strangers, not to go with anyone in a strange car, and to scream to high heaven if anyone tries to grab them.
It was a cold and snowy October morning in 2012, when one little girl and her parents would learn that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, even the most prepared can fall prey to a clever predator…
Like many fifth graders, Jessica had always been told to be very wary of strangers. Even in her quiet suburban neighborhood, it was important for her to constantly be on her guard. She even kept reminders like “Do not play at the park alone.” and “Watch out for strangers!” in the notebook she kept in her desk at school.
Jessica was a bright blue-eyed, joyous little girl who loved to make up dances and hummed to melodies in her head. She was never without her favorite pair of purple glasses and was beloved by classmates and teachers alike. Indeed, it was almost as if the tragedy that was about to befall her was fated to happen…
On her last morning of freedom, Jessica stood in her kitchen with her mother, peeling an orange and eating a granola bar as she made her way out to school. On her way to school, she noticed it had snowed and reached down to pick up a handful of fresh snow. She rolled it into a snowball.
Meanwhile, as little Jessica was engaging in the most innocent and childlike of acts, a predator lay in wait. He had parked his jeep down the block, far from the prying eyes of the public but near enough that he could see the 10-year-old girl make her way towards him, carrying her snowball as she walked to school…
On the Prowl
He waited there in his Jeep until she reached the end of the sidewalk, watching slumped and out of sight from the inside of his gold vehicle. When she crossed the street and turned to walk past him, the man sprung from the Jeep and grabbed her. Jessica screamed and dropped the snowball, but no one could hear her.
She Was Gone
By the time school had begun that day, Jessica was already in the clutches of a man whose amorality had yet to be tested. Her mother called 911 that afternoon, after being informed that her 10-year-old daughter had never made it to school. Little did she know that even as she dialed the number, Jessica was already dead…
Search For Him
For the next 17 days, investigators scoured neighborhoods looking for Jessica Ridgeway. In fact, the very day she vanished, prosecutors began building a case, though they didn’t know yet if they were charging for kidnapping or murder. Two days into the investigation, Jessica’s backpack was discovered on a sidewalk not far from her home. Her purple glasses, the ones she never took off, were inside.
Some years before that, in a similar suburban neighborhood, a young boy named Austin Sigg, was sitting in an elementary classroom learning about strangers. Like Jessica, Austin’s elementary school teachers described him as kind, caring, and brilliant for his age. But by the time he turned 12, a new addiction to child pornography was beginning to warp his mind…
The addiction quietly grew over the years and soon he was only viewing violent images of children being raped, strangled and dismembered. He also began to develop a keen interest in mortuary science, which of course struck his parents and younger brother as very creepy. Knowing he was troubled, his parents sent him to a faith-based counselor in an effort to set him back on the right path.
Unfortunately for everyone, the faith-based counselor didn’t help. Indeed, as Austin got older, his fascination with body decomposition and murder became even more pronounced. His mother, however, failed to see the signs and instead decided to help foster his newfound interests into a career. She even told a friend she’d helped Austin practice restraining someone with zip ties at one point. It only made things worse…
Other people had begun to notice Sigg’s peculiarities as well. His time in high school was full of awkwardness amongst his fellow classmates and teachers. Even his girlfriend noticed the changes. Sigg would stay ay home with his mother Mindy four nights a week, but no one knew where he would go on the other three nights.
The Need to Hunt
As it turned out, Sigg was going out “hunting” on those nights. He would drive his Jeep through suburban neighborhoods, keeping an eye out for anyone on their own. He wanted to kill someone, he just didn’t know who. Anytime he would see someone walking fast, his heart would begin to pump faster and he would feel the urge to chase them, like a predator…
Sigg’s first attempt took place four months before he took Jessica. He had tried to kidnap a woman jogging at Ketner Lake by shoving a chloroform-soaked rag in her face. Unfortunately for him, she was too strong and was able to fend him off and escape. She called the police but they never caught him. He realized he needed someone smaller, weaker, to start with.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Despite the fact that she was less than a thousand feet from her front door, Jessica Ridegway was small, alone, and vulnerable on the day she was walking to school. Sigg had never seen her before, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He grabbed her and shoved her into the back seat, tying her feet and hands with zip ties before driving off…
Jessica was, like most 10-year-olds, full of questions. She asked him if he knew her mom, who he was, and each time Sigg would lie to her and tell her that everything was going to be ok. He knew what he was going to do when he got her up into his room and he didn’t seem to care. Even when the sweet little girl commented on his litter box and wanted to see his cats, he remained impassive.
For a moment after that, it seemed he felt some twinge of compassion. He cut off her zip ties, let her watch cartoons, even let her change out of her urine-soaked clothes and gave her a new clean shirt and shorts from his closet. Then, according to him, he told her to turn away from him and strangled her to death…
Wanted to be Found
Sigg dismembered her body after that and on Oct. 10, placed Jessica’s torso in two black garbage bags alongside 82nd Street, just 9 miles from her home. That, coupled with the backpack, was enough to let police know that Jessica was dead. Two days later, a friend of Mindy Sigg’s called the FBI. She was worried about her friend’s son Austin and believed he might be involved in something terrible.
Sleep With Mom
The police came to Sigg’s house, collected a DNA sample and asked some questions: but didn’t arrest him. That night, Austin Sigg slept in bed with his mother. He was not himself. The next day, he told his mother that he had done something horrible. She immediately asked him if it was about Jessica, and he nodded. While they waited for the police to arrive, Mindy and her 17-year-old son, hugged and cried…
I’m a Monster
Sigg was calm when police arrived and told them that he was a monster. He admitted that he was consumed by some sort of sexual drive when he grabbed Jessica, but told them that he never sexually assaulted her. Sigg’s DNA matched the sample found on the jogger and the sample on both Jessica’s water bottle and her remains. It was an open-and-shut-case.
Life in Prison
Austin Sigg was three months short of his 18th birthday when he killed Jessica and as such, was not eligible for the death penalty. He would however, spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. This is a story with no happy ending, but a warning for parents that even in the modern age, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on our kids. Because even one moment, can prove to be too late.