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‘America’s Most Wanted,’ other organizations join search for Jessica Ridgeway

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The search for Jessica Ridgeway is getting national attention. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent a team of experts to Westminster as soon as they heard of Jessica’s disappearance on Friday.

And Jessica’s disappearance caught the attention of America’s Most Wanted.

Click here to see the latest information on the search for Jessica Ridgeway

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year.

Only about 115 are victims of stranger kidnappings. But they say the first few hours and days are critical.

Robert Lowery, NCMEC’s Senior Executive director, told FOX31 Denver, “we get involved immediately. We were notified about Jessica Ridgeway almost immediately when it was reported to law enforcement. We intake that case, assign case managers, working with law enforcement, when appropriate with her family, getting them whatever help they need in finding this child."

"We mobilize all the assets of the national center in an attempt to find these children. Widespread image capabilities, we have a lot of partners out there. Image distribution is probably one of the strongest tools we have in finding that child,” Lowery says.

NCMEC sent members of their “Team Adam”, a group of retired law enforcement officers that have years of experience in child abduction and missing children investigations. They are also specially trained to search the rugged terrain they will find in Colorado.”

John Walsh also knows what it’s like to search for a missing child. His own son, Adam was kidnapped and killed in 1981.

He now hosts America’s Most Wanted. Walsh told FOX31 Denver’s Deborah Takahara in an exclusive interview, “About 80 percent of missing kids are found because of media, so the public will be key to breaking this case. No matter how inconsequential information may seem, I’ve learned 25 years on Americas Most Wanted, catching 1200 bringing home 60 missing children, the public is huge part in solving these cases. They have to have the guts to pick up the phone.”

Walsh also said Jessica’s parents need to speak publicly.

"I would say this. If I could’ve traded my life for Adam’s back in 1981. If someone said stand in Times Square naked, we’re going to shoot you with a sniper bullet, I would’ve stood there and traded my life. I know one thing. You need the media. No matter how difficult, you have to be willing to go on national shows, local shows, any show"

"You have to say this is my beautiful daughter, this is the victim we need to focus on and be strong because the real victim is this little girl. She is praying somewhere that mom and dad are strong enough to keep the search for me going," Walsh says.

"I know how hard it is, I know how devastating it is, I’ve walked in that mom’s shoes, I’ve walked in that estranged dad’s shoes. But I learned one thing over the years, the parents have to be strong enough to keep Jessica’s face on the TV screens and front pages of newspapers.”

Walsh and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said it is important to not give up hope.

They encourage the public to remain alert and call in with any small piece of information.

Robert Lowery said, “You know we’ve found children missing under the most dire circumstances, and we got them safely returned to their parents. In this case, we got to hold out that hope that’s what we’re going to find today.”

Walsh agreed, saying, “You never give up hope until you know what’s happened. So 96 hours is a long time but the public and police have to keep this in the forefront. Hope and pray this little girl is alive.”

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