June 28, 2008: A year later friends and family of missing mom are still asking: Where’s Paige?

QUICKREAD

By the Numbers
$991,000: Selling price of Paige’s family home
$64,500: Cost in operations and overtime at Sheriff’s Department
8,400: Bottles of water distributed to searchers
200: Number of new registered searchers in Abby & Jennifer Recovery Foundation
110: Highest daily temperature during search
100: Average daily high temperature during search
80: Square miles searched by volunteers
10: Minimum number of national television and print media organizations who interviewed Sheriff’s Department officials
13: Sheriff’s investigators initially assigned to case
4: Number of counties searched
1: Sheriff’s investigators now assigned to case



Nearly a year ago, Frank and Suzanne Birgfeld got the call any parent would dread. “I’m from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department. Do you know that your daughter Paige is missing?” Frank Birgfeld said of the call to his cell phone June 30, 2007, in Denver.

In the next breath, the investigator asked whether the father of the 34-year-old Grand Junction mother of three knew his daughter worked in the adult entertainment business.

The call lasted a few minutes, but time stretched into eternity in that moment, Frank Birgfeld said.

The year that followed has been one of crushing disappointment and few clues.

The doting mother who led a secret life as an escort has not been found, and no suspect has been arrested.

“If we find Paige, charges will be promptly brought,” Frank Birgfeld assured.

For that reason, the 64-year-old has taken up a residence in Grand Junction, resuming a search for his daughter’s remains.

To date, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department has listed 57-year-old Lester Ralph Jones as the sole suspect.

Bloodhounds traced a scent from Paige’s burned-out vehicle to the front door of a business across the street on 23 Road where Jones worked. Authorities confirmed that Jones’ Pear Park home has been searched at least twice.

The days after Paige Birgfeld’s disappearance turned to months. Now, a year after her disappearance garnered national media attention, the unsolved crime has wreaked havoc on family and friends desperate for information. Complicating matters is the contrast between the dual lives Paige led.

Known by friends and family as a model suburban mom and tireless provider for her children, Paige sold Pampered Chef products, taught dance to preschoolers and headed up a MOMs Club,

Paige Birgfeld alternately was known by men who sought her out in the escort business as “Carrie,” who gave topless massages.

Despite hundreds of hours of searching, prayer vigils and tearful gatherings among loved ones, Paige’s story after June 28 remains a mystery.

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said finding Birgfeld’s remains is not necessary to press charges.

However, a lack of evidence, and Paige’s secretive history as an escort, would provide extra ammunition for defense attorneys at trial.

“The lack of a body or any ability to prove cause of death is a major, major problem in a homicide prosecution,” he said.

Hautzinger said he hasn’t made any decisions on presenting the case to a grand jury, and he doesn’t refute any facts presented on a recently aired national television program on Paige’s disappearance.

The “48 Hours Mystery” broadcast cited anonymous sources who claimed tens of thousands of dollars were found at Paige’s sprawling home in north Grand Junction. The show also said Jones is on video purchasing a disposable cell phone that had the same number that was listed as the last incoming call on Paige’s phone, information that hadn’t been released to the public previously.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said one lead investigator is now on the case that initially attracted a force of 13 investigators.  As time passes, investigators gravitate to the department’s newer cases.

If given a good reason or a credible tip, Hilkey said, investigators would immediately be assigned again to the Birgfeld case. He said one year is not a long time to investigate complex cases, adding some Mesa County murder cases have been solved years later.



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