Golden, Colo. • A Colorado teen pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and kidnapping in the kidnap-slaying and dismemberment of a 10-year-old girl that panicked Denver-area residents last fall despite police testimony that the youth had confessed to the crime.
Austin Sigg, 18, stunned a courtroom by entering the not guilty pleas in the death of Jessica Ridgeway in the Denver suburb of Westminster. Sigg also pleaded not guilty to a May attack on a 22-year-old jogger at a lake in Jessica's neighborhood.
Sigg's not guilty pleas came despite his alleged confession and the discovery of some of the girl's remains at his home. He also confessed to the jogger attack, police say.
Trial was set for Sept. 23.
One legal analyst noted Sigg can still change his plea and that a plea bargain is possible.
"It's not uncommon for there to be a plea of not guilty to get things started, with the idea that the parties could continue to talk," said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor who is now an adjunct professor at the University of Denver law school.
Sixteen family and friends of Jessica's, all wearing her favorite color, purple, were in the court, and Sigg smiled awkwardly at them as deputies led him in. As he left the hearing, he was turned around to face Jessica's supporters as deputies handcuffed him, and he again smiled awkwardly at them.
Sigg is charged with murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery. Prosecutors added three counts of sexual exploitation of a child because child pornography was allegedly found during the investigation. Sigg denied to investigators that he sexually assaulted Jessica.
If convicted, Sigg would face life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. He cannot face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the slaying.