He has facial hair, strategically carved into a small goth-styled goatee, and a pair of soulless eyes scarier than those of Charlie Manson. But, to the astonishment of police and expert profilers, the methodical killer who kidnapped, assaulted, murdered, and dismembered schoolgirl Jessica Ridgeway in early October 2012 defies all educated guesses and statistics: He is only 17-years-old.
Turned in by his own mother, teenager Austin Sigg confessed to police On October 23, 2012 that he was in fact the person they’d been searching for, and was then promptly taken into custody. Thus ended a massive nationwide manhunt for an elusive, and sometimes taunting, predator who’d been mistakenly described by criminologists and law enforcement agencies as most likely an adult Caucasian male, between 18 to 30 years of age, sexually deviant with a criminal record.
Homicidal youngster Sigg had no convictions, nor was his name listed on the national sex offender registry. And still other revelations which have since surfaced about Jessica Ridgeway’s baby-faced murderer, about his perverse penchants and illicit hobbies, continue to astound and confound the authorities.
All of it paints a chilling portrait entirely consistent with what is known about this class of psychotic killer—but a depth of psychopathology entirely unexpected in one of such “tender” years.
Born on January 17, 1995 in Westminster Colorado to Mindy Ashbaugh and career criminal Robert Sigg, Austin Reed Sigg had already developed a number of profoundly disturbing obsessions by the time he’d reached puberty, many of which should have raised red flags for his family and his neighbors. Chief among these was allegedly a pornography addiction so severe that intervention and treatment was ordered when he was only 15 years of age, and a passion for performing extreme acts of cruelty against small animals.
Sigg, a collector of knives and other weaponry, is an avid video-gamer too, commonly using the aliases ‘Dohastvath’ and ‘DNA’ in his various online war-gaming accounts. He is also rumored to have had at least one significant run in with the juvenile justice system in his home state prior to planning and committing first-degree murder, the nature of which hasn’t been revealed.
Although the disclosure that Austin Sigg was arrested as a minor can’t officially be confirmed because court records concerning children are typically kept sealed, a family member with intimate knowledge of such matters offered the following observations and remarks, on condition of anonymity:
“We heard that he was in counseling over issues related to the family breaking up—you know, Rob was in and out of prison sort of thing—but while Mindy kept telling everyone she was told this kind of phase of wearing black, being holed up in his room playing video games, and charging porn movies on her accounts was normal for a teenage boy, we had discussed someone taking the lead and mentioning we thought Austin did not seem ‘normal’ for as long as I could remember. But then he had a girlfriend for a while, and he seemed to sort of snap out of it.
“The last thing I remember was that they had gone to some formal and the next thing we knew he was pulled out of school and in intensive therapy for a pornographic addiction, so I don’t know if that is what broke the kids up, or what. Mindy had it rough with the two boys on her own. She put herself through that school in Denver on her own dime while Rob got locked up at about the same time. I think the kids were probably very much on their own and by the time Austin started having really big issues, it may have been too late obviously.
“We still don’t know how he (Austin’s father) comes out of prison and paid off over $140K in fines while Mindy was forced to file bankruptcy this summer. I tried to look up Rob’s stuff on the internet, but a bunch of the files from his criminal case are still sealed.”
Ultimately, the troubled and troubling Austin Sigg dropped out of high school and obtained an equivalency diploma instead. At the time of his arrest for the Ridgeway murder, he was feeding his morbid preoccupations by studying mortuary science at Arapahoe Community College. Additionally, in his capacity as a student of forensics, Sigg was the recent recipient of a prestigious award for crime scene investigation.
“I didn’t feel the joy from killing [Jessica Ridgeway] that I thought I would,” he confided to his arresting officers, this jarring declaration, and many more like it, made in a strangely high-pitched voice that suggested the youth also suffered from a lifelong speech impediment.
The anticlimactic sensation Sigg claims he experienced after he sexually assaulted and strangled his child victim is the reason why he decided to dismember her body, he told police. He said he did this heinous thing in order to revive the thrill of a kill.
Then he dumped parts of the ten-year-old girl’s remains—her torso and her limbs—in an open field not far from her residence, stashing her head, hands and feet in the crawlspace under his own home, and planting her backpack and clothing in an adjacent township. The latter calculatingly done not only in hopes of throwing investigators off his trail, but to mock their efforts at apprehending him.
Sigg’s confession that he committed all these offenses, and the fact that his DNA matches a sample found on Ridgeway’s body as well as one collected from a previous abduction attempt of an adult female jogger in the park near his house, makes it pretty much an open and shut case against him now. It is not known if he intends to plead not guilty via an insanity defense.
Because the Ridgeway girl’s slaying was such a polished and premeditated crime, and the crime scene itself so carefully composed, police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding her abduction and death, along with other similar disappearances that may be directly linked to Austin Sigg.
Manipulation of evidence and mutilating bodies is extremely rare, especially for a first time offender, so experts rightly fear they may have a budding serial killer on their hands, with the likelihood of past victims who have yet to be discovered and identified. They have also determined that the dismemberment of Jessica Ridgeway’s corpse did not actually occur at the Sigg home in Westminster, despite the discovery that body parts were secretly hoarded there as ‘keepsakes’. They are therefore actively searching for a secondary location, and have not totally ruled out the possibility of accomplices either.
In light of those realistic concerns, the teen has been charged as an adult and is currently being held without bond in a Colorado jail cell as he awaits trial.
author of DUNGEONS, DRAGONS , MURDER and THE CASE OF THE DROWNING MEN