By P. Soloman Banda
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Colorado police looking for a 10-year-old girl who disappeared on her walk to school have found a body in a park, but are not saying whether it is linked to the case and noted Thursday that officers are still searching for her.
The discovery of the body is the latest turn in the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway that has seen police look for clues in an abduction of an 11-year-old girl in Wyoming and a reported sighting in a car with Colorado plates in Maine.
At a pre-dawn news conference, police refused to release any details about the body found late Wednesday at a park in the suburban Denver city of Arvada, about seven miles from where Jessica disappeared Oct. 5. They also declined to say whether the body was that of a child.
Police spokesman Trevor Materasso said investigators were processing evidence from Pattridge Park and that no additional information was available. He left without answering questions.
In tweets, Westminster police said investigators had worked overnight to identify the body. Officers searched more of the park Thursday as well as areas closer to Jessica's home.
Police have ruled out her parents — Sarah Ridgeway, who lives Colorado, and Jeremiah Bryant, who lives in Missouri. Authorities believe Jessica was kidnapped by an "unknown suspect."
Jessica's mother last saw her daughter walking to school. The girl never arrived, setting off a frantic search by hundreds of law enforcement officials and residents. Photos of the fifth-grader have been posted in the neighborhood and online since her disappearance.
Aurelio Florez, who has lived in Jessica's neighborhood for six years, said it was shocking that Jessica could have vanished during a two-block walk to a park where she usually met friends before continuing on to school.
"You can see the park from her front door," he said.
The only real clue police have revealed in Jessica's disappearance is the discovery over the weekend of a backpack and water bottle that she had with her when she disappeared. Police won't discuss what was found in the bag or test results on it.
The items were found in the town of Superior, some six miles from her home. The spot where the possessions were found is about 7 miles from the park.
Police initially said the public didn't need to fear a kidnapper, then that they were investigating whether the case might be related to that of another girl who was abducted for several hours Monday in Wyoming. In that case, a man lured the girl into a sport utility vehicle, saying he needed help finding his puppy. The girl was discovered by hunters.
Adding to the mystery was a reported sighting more than 2,000 miles away in Maine of a car with Colorado license plates — one of hundreds of leads being investigating from at least five states.
Westminster police repeatedly have urged the public to study the details of Jessica's face in a photo — a small, gap-toothed grin, a slight bruise on her nose — and a short home video, hoping someone may have seen something.
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