The parents of missing Colorado 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway spoke publicly for the first time today and denied any involvement in the disappearance of their daughter, calling her "the rock" in their lives.
"I know I didn't do anything. Everybody that's here knows I didn't do anything," Jessica's mom Sarah Ridgeway said, surrounded by 10 family members, including Jessica's father, Jeremiah Bryant. "Nobody in this room did anything to harm her or a tiny hair on her little head.
"If they have to eliminate me, go right ahead," she said. "I know it's something that has to get done. They have to get it out of there."
Bryant said FBI investigators asked him whether he believed Jessica's mother could have anything to do with her disappearance, and he said no, as he was sure she had said when asked about him.
"I don't see how any parent could do something like that to their child," he said.
Jessica Ridgeway vanished Friday when she left to walk three blocks from her Westminster, Colo., home to meet friends for the walk to school. It was a route she took every day, but this time she never got there.
Sarah Ridgeway talked about her daughter's typical daily routine. Her alarm would go off at 7:45 a.m. and she would go downstairs, watch TV, eat a granola bar and go back upstairs to get dressed. When she came back down, mother and daughter would peel oranges for Ridgeway's school snack and fill up her water bottle.
"She wants to be a teenager before she's a teenager," Sarah Ridgeway said. "I watch her walk out the door and I shut the door and that's the last time I saw her ... walking through that door. I need to walk back through the door."
When Ridgeway didn't show up for class, school officials called her home, but because Sarah Ridgeway works the overnight shift at a tech company, she was asleep. She didn't get the message until later, which delayed her calling police.
An Amber Alert was issued Oct. 5 for the 10-year-old, nearly eight hours after she disappeared.
Ridgeway said Jessica loves school and would never miss it, so she knew something was wrong when she got the call. Ridgeway described losing hope little by little as she went to all of Jessica's favorite places -- the park, her friend's house, school -- and discovered that her daughter was not at any of those places.
"Then you get the pit in your stomach that you don't want any parent to ever experience in their whole entire life," she said through sobs.
Police say Jessica's father, who lives out of state, is in a custody battle with Jessica's mother. But both parents were present for the interview and held hands with family members from both sides of their families.
They described a bright and happy 10-year-old girl who loved school, especially math and physical education.
"She's all of our rock. She's the one that when you're kind of down she's going to come along and she's going to make you laugh, she's going to give you a hug, she's going to give you a kiss," Ridgeway said. "She was the light of the house. With all the people there, it's still too quiet. It's way too quiet. It needs to be lively and happy again."
Jessica Ridgeway's backpack and water bottle were found on Sunday, six miles from where she was last seen. Police say the backpack is vital evidence in a case that has precious few leads.