‘Long journey’ ends with discovery of Paige Birgfeld’s body

Paige Birgfeld



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Paige Birgfeld

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Frank Birgfeld, Paige’s dad, looks over the scene where his daughters remains were found. Connie Fluke, in pink, stands the dry creek bed where the skeletal remains were found north of Delta just east of Highway 50.



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Frank Birgfeld, Paige’s dad, looks over the scene where his daughters remains were found. Connie Fluke, in pink, stands the dry creek bed where the skeletal remains were found north of Delta just east of Highway 50.

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Connie Flukey remembered the campfire pit at the top of the hill.

Her husband, Kent, said he personally trekked at least four times over the same creek bed snaking through north Delta County, where on Wednesday, four-plus years of searching and speculation ended with the confirmed recovery of Grand Junction mother Paige Birgfeld.

“What do you think?” Paige’s 68-year-old father, Frank, asked a reporter. “So you just dump her down the hill or take her all the way down there?”

“Well ...” he said, not hearing much of an answer, “and this is called what gulch? Damn. It’s been a long, long journey.”

Frank Birgfeld took a series of deep breaths with his gaze fixed on Grand Mesa.

“How could we have possibly missed this?” he asked.

Skeletal remains discovered by a Delta County couple hiking in the area Tuesday were confirmed Wednesday through dental records as belonging to Paige Birgfeld.

The Sheriff’s Department said a DNA comparison will be conducted through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Personal items, including articles of Birgfeld’s clothing, also were recovered from the creek bottom and will be considered for additional testing for trace evidence, said Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey.

Hilkey declined to elaborate on the additional items recovered, nor did he specify which bones were found. A forensic anthropologist will examine the remains toward determining how Birgfeld died.

“A lot of what we found was in pretty good shape,” Hilkey said. “We’ve got a lot of work left.”

Birgfeld’s case was reclassified by the Sheriff’s Department Wednesday as a homicide.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger referred comment to the Sheriff’s Department when asked about possible time frames for bringing a prosecution in Birgfeld’s slaying.

“It’s certainly a significant development, but there’s still work to be done,” the DA said.

Authorities said the remains were in partial plain view to the hikers who discovered it, while the rest was covered by dirt.

“It’s my opinion she was buried, and causes relating to nature uncovered it,” Hilkey said.

The creek bottom in question was bone dry in July 2007 when Kent Flukey, among hundreds of Grand Valley residents who volunteered with the Abby and Jennifer Recovery Foundation, walked the same general area and Wells Gulch, specifically.

Wells Gulch carries flash-flood runoff water from Grand Mesa, with seasonal peaks of 5 to 6 feet of water, Kent Flukey said.

“It’s kind of baffling to me,” he said of the recovery at the location.

Birgfeld, 34, a mother of three children who led a double life running her own escort service, was last heard from June 28, 2007, returning to Grand Junction from Eagle. Her car was found burning the night of July 1, 2007, in a parking lot at 727 23 Road.  Bloodhounds tracked a scent south from the parking lot at 23 Road, leading to Bob Scott’s RV service facility, 2302 Grand Park Drive, at the time the employer of Lester Ralph Jones.

Jones, whom authorities have said was a client of Birgfeld’s escort business, remains the lone, named suspect in the case.

Extensive search efforts in 2007 focused south of Grand Junction along U.S. Highway 50, covering a sizable stretch of land on both sides of the highway.

More than 100 items belonging to Birgfeld, including papers and other smaller items of personal property, were discovered scattered along both sides of U.S. Highway 50, south of Colorado Highway 141 and north of Bridgeport Road, during the search efforts of 2007, the Sheriff’s Department confirmed Wednesday to The Daily Sentinel.

The Sheriff’s Department didn’t elaborate on the release of new information in the case.

Connie Flukey, president of the Abby and Jennifer Recovery Foundation, said she was asked for updates in Birgfeld’s case by volunteers who were part of last month’s search effort for a pair of Grand Junction men in Utah.

Connie Flukey said she was upset with others who appeared to abandon hope in the case.

“I told Frank today that if it’s not Paige, she will be found,” she said. “But I still can’t believe today’s the day.”

Frank Birgfeld said he was near Vail on Interstate 70, westbound headed for Grand Junction after reports surfaced of human remains being found, when he got the phone call from Sheriff Hilkey confirming Paige’s recovery.

“I don’t cry much, but I did today,” Birgfeld said. “People keep telling me there’s going to be this great moment of closure, but the party hasn’t come, that’s for sure. I’m crushed.”


CHRONOLOGY OF BIRGFELD CASE

July 3, 2007: Grand Junction woman remembered smiling

July 3, 2007: Missing woman wrote about fear of ex-husband

July 4, 2007: Father joins hunt for missing GJ woman

July 5, 2007: Search continues for missing woman

July 6, 2007: Complicated life a roadblock in Birgfeld hunt

July 8, 2007: Birgfeld’s disappearance deemed ‘foul play’

July 11, 2007: Search set for missing GJ woman

July 16, 2007: Missing woman’s belongings found

July 19, 2007: Another search in Birgfeld case

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

Aug. 6, 2007: Investigators unleash scent dogs in latest attempt to find Birgfeld

Sept. 16, 2007: Grandparents ‘have a sizable burden’ in challenging father for custody

Oct. 3, 2007: Suspect named in disappearance

Oct. 28, 2007: Family, friends gather for remembrance of missing mom

March 16, 2008: With heavy hearts, friends of missing mom move on

May 21, 2008: Father of missing woman not giving up hope

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

May 15, 2009: Missing money alleged in case

May 5, 2011: Missing woman search resumes



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