July 20, 2007: Birgfeld probe casts light on man with violent past

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation searched a house in the 3000 block of Hill Avenue twice this month looking for clues in the disappearance of Grand Junction woman Paige Birgfeld, a 34-year-old mother of three and operator of an escort service.

The house at 3072 Hill Ave. is owned by Elaine J. Jones, according to the Mesa County Assessor’s Office. She lives there with her husband, Lester Ralph Jones, who was born in 1951, according to Mesa County voting records.

A man named Lester Ralph Jones, who was born March 4, 1951, has a slew of domestic-violence-related convictions for crimes committed in Delta County. All of the convictions stem from three dates in early 1999.

Jones’ CBI record shows 12 separate charges stemming from a Jan. 1, 1999, arrest by the Delta County Sheriff’s Department. The charges included two counts of harassment or false imprisonment; two counts of assault or menacing and second-degree kidnapping; a weapons offense; two misdemeanor traffic offenses; reckless endangerment; and false imprisonment.

On Jan. 13, 1999, Jones was arrested by the Paonia Police Department on suspicion of obstructing justice by intimidating a witness or victim and contempt of court for violating a restraining order.

On Feb. 9, 1999, Jones was arrested by the Delta County Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of contempt of court for violating a restraining order, false imprisonment, assault in the third degree, sexual assault and burglary.

On Oct. 10, 1999, Jones was sentenced to five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for kidnapping in the second degree, according to the CBI.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey declined to comment Thursday on the man residing at 3072 Hill Ave. or whether he was the same Lester Ralph Jones with the criminal record in Delta County.

Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Giehart said she couldn’t say whether Jones was a person of interest in the case. She said the house’s occupants are not necessarily suspects just because authorities have searched there.

“I’m encouraging you to think outside the box a little,” she said. “There’s more than one reason why we do a lot of the things we do.”

Other search warrants have been issued in the case, but Gierhart would not say how many and where those searches took place.

• Volunteer searchers with the Abby and Jennifer Recovery Foundation will set up a command center at Canyon View Park today to search for evidence.

Search efforts since last Saturday focused on a stretch of U.S. Highway 50 near Whitewater and Bridgeport and yielded items authorities said belonged to Birgfeld, but they would not say what those items were.



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