The likely discovery of Jessica Ridgeway‘s backpack and water bottle – the biggest lead yet in the search for the missing 10-year-old – is fueling hope for her recovery, police say.
The backpack was discovered Sunday outside the home of a man in the Rock Creek subdivision in Superior, Colo., about 6 1/2 miles northwest of Jessica’s home, Westminster Police Investigator Trevor Materasso told NBC News on Monday.
The man sent an email at 1:03 p.m. Sunday through a community listserv calling attention to the backpack, Materasso said. Other residents alerted him that it might be related to the case, and told him to call police.
“This is very significant because it really is the only lead that we’ve had,” Materasso said. “She left for school that Friday morning and disappeared just a few minutes later and didn’t leave a lot of information, so we have a very broad investigation and a broad search for her. This is giving investigators a different thing to look into and follow up on.”
Police said they aren’t discussing the contents of the backpack but said they are working with the family in the investigation.
“We do believe this is her backpack, and this has expanded our search and our investigation into that community,” Materasso said. “We also really want parents to talk to their kids to see if they have any information that could be beneficial and recognize that they won’t be in trouble if they do.”
Jessica weighs 80 pounds and is 4-feet-10 with blue eyes and blond shoulder-length hair. Police say it’s likely her clothes may have changed since she disappeared.
She was last seen on Friday morning by her mother when she left to walk three blocks from her home in Westminster, Colo., to meet friends for the walk to school. She took the same route every day.
The friends told school officials that Jessica never showed up. They tried calling Jessica’s mother, but she reportedly slept through calls after working a night shift.
An Amber Alert was issued Friday evening once the mother confirmed that her daughter was missing.
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