Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 | 9:26 p.m.
GOLDEN, Colo. — A teenager who killed and dismembered a 10-year-old girl in the suburbs west of Denver will learn if he will spend the rest of his life in prison Tuesday, a day after the girl's family and friends urged a judge to impose the maximum sentence.
District Judge Stephen Munsinger is set to decide the fate of 18-year-old Austin Sigg, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the October 2012 death of Jessica Ridgeway. Sigg could be eligible for parole after serving 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors want the judge to impose consecutive sentences on some of the other charges involving Jessica so that Sigg spends the rest of his life in prison. The teenager does not face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of Jessica's death.
On Monday, several of the girl's friends and family members urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence allowed.
"A part of me died that cold October day in 2012," Scott Fischle, a close friend of Jessica's family, said in arguing for a lengthy sentence. "She was a kind, sweet, innocent child who was bound for greatness in this world. ... My life is richer for having known her."
Jessica's mother, Sarah Ridgeway, told the judge the killer doesn't deserve to know how the girl's death affected her, and his name soon will be forgotten.
"I don't think that the defendant has the right to hear how he affected me, my family or who Jessica was," she said. "Once we walk out of this courtroom we'll not remember his name and we'll only remember Jessica and the legacy she created.'"
Jessica was walking to school Oct. 5, 2012, when she was abducted. Her death galvanized and terrified a community that spent days searching for her.
Monday's hearing was at times emotional and included a slideshow of Jessica set to music. The fifth-grader was a member of a pee wee cheerleading squad who was looking forward to being a zombie lifeguard for Halloween.
During the slideshow, Sigg's attorney comforted him by rubbing his back. Sigg wiped away tears with a tissue before being led out of court.
Earlier in the day, a psychologist hired by prosecutors told the judge that Sigg was "sadistic" and that he planned his attack.
"He certainly had no empathy for Jessica Ridgeway," said Anna Salter of Madison, Wis., who studies sex offenders. She reviewed and cited gruesome details from police interviews with Sigg but didn't speak to him herself.
Salter also said Sigg did Internet searches for torture, rape and child pornography.
Sigg's attorneys countered that his 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.
Defense attorney Katherine Spengler repeatedly objected to Salter's testimony, calling it "guesswork," and said the psychologist was unaware of some elements of Sigg's background.
Salter said she was under the impression that Sigg's birth was uneventful. She also rejected Spengler's suggestion that bullying played a role in the crime.
Sigg, dressed in a blue checkered shirt and khaki pants, sat with his back to the gallery during Salter's testimony. He was led into the courtroom in handcuffs, but the cuffs were removed before the hearing started.
Five days after Jessica's abduction, human remains identified as hers were found in a park. More of her remains were later found in a crawl space at the home of Sigg's mother, where he lived.
After Jessica disappeared, police guarded crosswalks and photographed cars in the area. Residents organized search parties, and parents throughout the region escorted their children to and from school.
A resident contacted authorities Oct. 19, 2012, to alert them to Sigg because he reportedly had a fascination with death. FBI agents took a DNA sample from the teen, and days later, Sigg's mother 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.
"I can't imagine the damage that's been done to his mother," said Angie Moss, Jessica's grandmother, while Sigg's mother cried in court.
Sigg also acknowledged attacking a 22-year-old jogger at a suburban park in May 2012. In that case, investigators said he used homemade chloroform to try to subdue the woman, who escaped.