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Hunt for 10-year-old Colorado girl turns up dismembered body

By Keith Coffman

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Reuters) - The search for a 10-year-old Colorado girl who authorities believe was abducted on her way to school has led to the discovery of a dismembered body at a park several miles from where the fifth-grader vanished, police said on Thursday.

But Westminster Police Inspector Trevor Materasso said authorities have not confirmed if the body is that of Jessica Ridgeway, who went missing on her way to school six days ago.

"The process is complicated because the body is not intact," Materasso said, declining to elaborate. He said authorities may release the identity of the body on Friday.

Jessica Ridgeway vanished last Friday after leaving for school in the Denver suburb of Westminster.

Her mother, Sarah Ridgeway, said she last saw her daughter when the girl left home for the short walk to school.

A night-shift worker, Sarah Ridgeway said she sleeps during the day and did not hear the phone call from the school notifying her that Jessica was absent, so it was several hours before she was reported missing.

Police said on Wednesday that the girl's parents were not suspects in their daughter's disappearance, and they were shifting the probe toward a stranger abduction.

The girl's father, Jeremiah Bryant, lives in Missouri and came to Colorado when he learned his daughter was missing, police said.

The case made national headlines in the days following Jessica's disappearance as hundreds of police officers, several bloodhounds and scores of volunteers scoured the girl's neighborhood looking for any clue to her whereabouts.

Investigators got their first break on Sunday when a man in Superior, Colorado, six miles away from Westminster, found the girl's backpack on a sidewalk near his home.

But Wednesday night, police said they made a grisly discovery when a body was found in a remote open-space area in Arvada, Colorado, about 10 miles from the girl's home.

Officers from 35 police agencies will continue to comb through the three crime scenes looking for evidence that may lead them to the abductor, Materasso said.

The FBI said on Thursday that the bureau is involved in the Colorado case as well as the kidnapping of a girl in neighboring Cody, Wyoming, who was lured into a vehicle and later released by an armed man.

"Currently we do not believe these cases are related," FBI spokesman Dave Joly said in a statement.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Richard Chang)

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