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October 27, 2012

Police look at Colo. teen in 2 other child cases

DENVER — Police in a Colorado town where the body of a missing 10-year-old girl was found said Friday that they want to question a teenage suspect in two unsolved child enticement cases.

A sketch developed in the September incidents bears some resemblance to 17-year-old Austin Sigg, who’s being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Jessica Ridgeway, Arvada police spokesman Sgt. Mark Nazaryk said.

The sketch and Sigg’s mug shot wasn’t an exact match, Nazaryk noted.

He also said investigators were trying to determine if Sigg had access to a royal blue, four-door sedan described by witnesses in both cases.

The September child enticement cases involved a man who tried to lure two boys about the same age as Jessica into a car.

No suspects were identified in those incidents.

Sigg is being held without bail on suspicion of murder and kidnapping in the death of Jessica, and attempted murder and attempted kidnapping in the case of runner at a neighborhood lake in May. Prosecutors were expected to formally charge him next week.

In arguing that Sigg be held without bail, prosecutors disclosed that Sigg confessed and that DNA evidence in the case was overwhelming.

Jessica disappeared three weeks ago after leaving her home in the Denver suburb to walk to school. She never arrived. Her remains were found on Oct. 10.

In the May attack, a 22-year-old woman told police a stranger grabbed her from behind and put a rag that smelled of chemicals over her mouth. Police haven’t disclosed if the rag had a chemical on it meant to subdue the woman.

Sigg turns 18 in January. He remains in a juvenile detention facility and cannot face the death penalty because of his age when he allegedly committed the crime. Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey said Sigg will likely be charged and tried as adult by his office.

But that decision can be challenged by Sigg’s public defenders who can ask a judge for what’s called a reverse transfer to keep the case in juvenile court under a state law passed this year. Among the factors to be considered by a judge to keep the case in an adult court are the seriousness of the crime, impact on the victims, and the maturity and intelligence level of the defendant.

The difference between adult court and juvenile court is that the maximum sentence for serious crimes, such as murder, which in juvenile court is seven years, said Kim Dvorchak, founder of a the advocacy group, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition.

While adults face a mandatory life without parole for a murder conviction, juveniles tried as adults face life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years, Dvorchak said.

Even if Sigg’s case remains in juvenile court and he’s convicted, the changes to the law enacted this year allow juveniles to serve back-to-back sentences for multiple convictions for crimes of violence, which could mean a decades-long prison term for Sigg. That sentence would first be served in a youth corrections facility followed by a transfer to an adult prison at age 21, Dvorchak said.

That change was prompted by family outrage and prosecutor’s frustration at a seven year sentence handed down in September 2011 to a Burlington, Colo., boy who pleaded guilty to killing his parents and severely injuring his siblings when he was 12. That boy will be on parole for two years after he’s released from youth corrections when he’s 20.

Whether a judge will approve Sigg being tried as an adult or send his case to juvenile court is yet to be seen as it is the first high-profile case under the changes meant to prevent a cookie-cutter approach for juveniles, Dvorchak said.

“This is a very unusual case,” Dvorchak said.

 

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