May 15, 2009: Missing money alleged in case

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey on Thursday said he welcomed FBI scrutiny of his agency’s handling of money evidence in the 2007 disappearance of Paige Birgfeld.

The Sheriff’s Department found itself scrambling after Birgfeld’s father, Frank Birgfeld, sent e-mails to several media outlets announcing he had asked the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit in Denver to investigate “missing money” in the investigation.

“I told (FBI), ‘Please look at this,’ ” Hilkey said. “We want to be as transparent as possible. We’ve got $50 seized from a lock box, which Frank already knew about. No other money has been seized in this investigation.”

At the crux of Frank Birgfeld’s complaints were reports aired last June on the CBS program “48 Hours.”

“Contained therein was a statement by an informant, described as a ‘contact close to the investigation,’ who reported ‘that investigators discovered a large amount of cash in Paige’s home — tens of thousands of dollars,” Birgfeld wrote. “It has been established that Paige operated with substantial amounts of cash not deposited into a bank account. The monies were very likely hidden in her Grand Junction residence.”

Hilkey on Thursday denied the “48 Hours” claims, as he did in a written response last September to Birgfeld.

“We don’t know how that made it into the ‘48 Hours’ piece,” Hilkey said.

Staff with “48 Hours” who were involved in the Birgfeld broadcast did not immediately return phone messages.

Paige Birgfeld, 34, was last heard from while driving back to Grand Junction the night of June 28, 2007, after spending the day near Eagle with her first husband, Howard Beigler of Aurora. Beigler and Birgfeld’s second husband, Rob Dixon, were publicly cleared by officials in October 2007 at the same time Pear Park mechanic Lester Ralph Jones was named a suspect.

No arrests have been made.

In Thursday’s letters from Frank Birgfeld, he said his purpose, in part, was to “order” Hilkey to turn over all evidence in the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Lance Clem, a spokesman with the Department of Public Safety, said state officials have no authority to remove criminal investigations from local jurisdictions.

“The sheriff would have to make that decision,” Clem said.

Frank Birgfeld also wrote a letter to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office asking for the appointment of a “special master” to move the evidence from the Sheriff’s Department to the CBI. Mike Saccone, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, said Suthers had responded to Birgfeld in writing prior to Thursday, saying the office had no legal authority to carry out the request.

Hilkey on Thursday said the Sheriff’s Department has one investigator still assigned to Paige Birgfeld’s case.

“If something were to come up, we could dedicate more resources,” he said. “Our people want this solved as bad as (Frank) does.”



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