GOLDEN, Colo. — A judge on Tuesday ordered a Colorado teenager who killed and dismembered a 10-year-old Denver-area girl to spend the rest of his days behind bars, describing his crime as “evil” and saying the case that rocked the community “cries out for a life sentence.”
District Judge Stephen Munsinger gave Austin Sigg, 18, life in prison for Jessica Ridgeway’s death and an additional 86 years for other crimes, including sexual assault and kidnapping.
“Evil is apparently real,” Munsinger said after handing down the sentence. “It was present in our community on Oct. 5, 2012. Its name was Austin Sigg.”
Sigg eventually would’ve been eligible for parole on the murder charge because he was a juvenile at the time of the killing, but the extra sentences eliminated that possibility. He chose not to address Munsinger and showed no emotion as the judge issued his decision.
Sigg did not face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of Jessica’s death.
His lawyers argued state law required the judge to give Sigg a sentence that made him eligible for parole after 40 years because of his age. They cited U.S. and state Supreme Court rulings.
“Your honor, you are sentencing a child today,” defense attorney Ryan Loewer said. “Life with the possibility of parole in 40 years is the only possible and legal sentence.”
But prosecutors said the judge had the authority to hand down a longer sentence.
“We are confident that this sentence ensures that Austin Sigg will never, ever leave the Department of Corrections, and he will never, ever be in a position to prey on members of our community,” District Attorney Peter Weir said at a news conference after the hearing.
“Something is very broken in Austin Sigg,” said Hal Sargent, a chief deputy DA who helped prosecute the case. “It was not something his mother did or did not do. … There is something simply broken in him that can’t be fixed.”
During the two-day sentencing hearing, several of the girl’s friends and family members urged the judge to impose the maximum term.
“A part of me died that cold October day in 2012,” Scott Fischle, a close friend of Jessica’s family, said Monday. “She was a kind, sweet, innocent child who was bound for greatness in this world.”
Jessica’s mother, Sarah Ridgeway, told Munsinger the killer doesn’t deserve to know how the girl’s death affected her, and his name soon will be forgotten.
“Once we walk out of this courtroom we’ll not remember his name, and we’ll only remember Jessica and the legacy she created,” she said.
Defense attorneys told the judge that Sigg’s mother inhaled paint while she was pregnant with him, and that trauma he suffered before and during his birth left him with head and intestinal deformities.
Jessica was abducted while walking to school. Human remains identified as hers were found five days later in a park, and more were found in a crawl space in Sigg’s mother’s home, where he lived.
Sigg pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing the girl. He also acknowledged attacking a 22-year-old jogger in May 2012. Investigators said he used homemade chloroform to try to subdue the woman, who escaped.
Jessica lived in Westminster with her mother. She was a fifth-grader and a member of a peewee cheerleading squad, and she was looking forward to being a zombie lifeguard for Halloween. Her father, Jeremiah Bryant, lives in Missouri.
Hundreds of people searched for her, and police stepped up security while parents escorted their children to and from school.
A resident alerted authorities to Sigg on Oct. 19, 2012, because he reportedly had a fascination with death. FBI agents took a DNA sample from Sigg, and days later his mother, Mindy Sigg, called 911, saying her son wanted to confess.
Investigators said Sigg told them he used his hands to kill the girl before he dismembered her body in a bathtub.
Sigg dropped out of high school after the 11th grade and later earned a graduate equivalency diploma. Former classmates say he was intelligent, interested in mortuary science and was bullied for having a high voice.