Colorado teen who dismembered girl to spend life in prison

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2013 4:49 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado teenager who pleaded guilty to abducting, killing and dismembering a 10-year-old schoolgirl, and to the botched kidnapping of a female jogger months before the slaying, was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison.

The sentence was structured by the judge in such a way as to virtually assure that the defendant, Austin Reed Sigg, now 18 but a juvenile when he committed the crimes, is never freed on parole.

"This case cries out for a life sentence," Jefferson County District Court Judge Stephen Munsinger said before pronouncing Sigg's punishment for the slaying of Jessica Ridgeway.

Sigg declined to address the court during the two-day penalty hearing, and showed no reaction when the judge imposed the sentence.

Jessica vanished on her way to school in the Denver suburb of Westminster in October 2012, setting off a frantic six-day search for the fifth-grader. Police ultimately found the dismembered remains of the bespectacled girl in a neighboring town.

Sigg initially admitted to killing the girl to his mother, who turned him into authorities. Police found more remains of the girl in the Westminster house Sigg shared with his mother.

Under police questioning, the onetime community college student confessed to killing the girl and to an earlier attempt to kidnap a 22-year-old woman, who fought him off when he attacked her as she jogged around a lake near his home.

Prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder, sexual exploitation of a child, robbery and other offenses for the Ridgeway case, and with the attempted kidnapping of the jogger. Sigg was 17 at the time of the murder, which made him ineligible for the death penalty.

Two days before he was scheduled to go on trial in October, Sigg abruptly pleaded guilty to all the charges in the two cases, against the advice of his public defenders.

Under Colorado law, a juvenile convicted of murder is eligible for parole after 40 years, which Sigg's lawyers argued was the appropriate sentence.

But Judge Munsinger disagreed, calling Sigg "evil," and in addition the 40-year-sentence for the murder, added eight decades worth of consecutive sentences for all the other crimes, virtually guaranteeing he will never be released from prison.

Munsinger quoted Sigg's own words from his confession, in which he told police he was "a monster for what I've done."

During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors called to the stand a psychologist, Anna Salter, who reviewed police accounts and other reports in the case but did not interview Sigg.

Salter testified that Sigg was obsessed with child and violent pornography, and carried out his twisted sexual fantasies on the girl.

Salter also said that while Jessica was being held captive she repeatedly asked Sigg if she would ever see her mother again, and he assured her that she would before cutting her hair, strangling and dismembering her.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Bob Burgdorfer)