By Keith Coffman
WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Reuters) - Investigators probing the killing of a 10-year-old Colorado girl who was snatched as she walked to school and was later found dismembered said on Friday that a small wooden cross pendant recovered as evidence could be an important clue in the case.
Police in the Denver suburb of Westminster released photos of the distinctive solid-wood cross, which measures 1.5 inches by 1 inch. They did not say where it was found.
The announcement came as police indicated the killing of Jessica Ridgeway may be linked to a failed abduction of a 22-year-old woman jogger six months earlier at a lake near where the fifth grader was last seen.
"Police believe there may be a connection between the Jessica Ridgeway murder and the attempted abduction," police Inspector Trevor Materasso said in a statement, a day after police released a description of a suspect in that case.
"We urge the public to specifically look for someone with a cross like this that matches the suspect's description," the statement said.
The cross has a hole drilled into it that could indicate it was worn as a necklace, police said, urging any business that sells such a cross to contact police.
The woman who previously escaped abduction was grabbed from behind by a man who placed a rag with a chemical odor over her mouth, police said. They have described him as light-skinned with a medium build and brown hair, and put his age at 18 to 35.
Jessica Ridgeway vanished on October 5. Two days later, a man in a nearby town reported finding her backpack on a sidewalk in front of his house. The girl's dismembered remains were later found in a semi-rural park in another town about 10 miles from the Ridgeway home.
The crime has shaken Westminster and neighboring Arvada, where fearful parents were walking their children to school or congregating at school bus stops to safely send them off.
Police said previously that Jessica's parents were not considered suspects in her disappearance and that the case was being investigated as an abduction.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Cynthia Johnston and Will Dunham)