Man’s gun ensnared in Birgfeld probe

Nearly three years ago, Rangely resident Curtis Kinney paid $350 cash for a .357 Smith & Wesson he bought from a co-worker.

What he didn’t know in July 2007 was that he’d be waiting, three years later, to use it.

The gun became ensnared in a high-profile criminal investigation, and Kinney still is waiting for authorities to return it after he volunteered its existence and handed it over to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

“I almost wrote it off,” Kinney, 46, said in a recent interview. “I want my damn gun back.”

Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Lisa McCammon declined extensive comment on Kinney’s gun but said it remains part of the ongoing investigation into the June 28, 2007, disappearance of 34-year-old Paige Birgfeld.

McCammon said Lester Ralph Jones, a local mechanic who authorities have acknowledged was a client of Birgfeld’s escort business, remains the investigation’s primary suspect.

Kinney said frustration grew after an investigator in November 2009 told him the weapon had been tested by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and cleared in the investigation.

“I was told they needed paperwork before they could release it,” Kinney said of the 7-month- old conversation.

Kinney earlier this year lodged a formal complaint against investigator Beverly Jarrell, who was exonerated in an internal investigation.

“What I was trying to address was the fact that it takes over two, almost three years to test a piece of evidence,” Kinney wrote in an e-mail this past April to the Sheriff’s Department.

Kinney said he purchased the gun during the first week of July 2007 from a man who worked as a consultant for an energy firm, and that the two had met while working together on the rigs of the Piceance Basin. The man also claimed to be a paying client of Birgfeld’s escort service and volunteered that he had been interviewed by authorities shortly after her disappearance, according to Kinney.

“He was a gun collector, but very eager to sell it,” Kinney said, further describing his colleague as “a big-ego guy with a lot of money, who liked to flaunt it.”

That same month, the man left town for western Texas.

Suspicious, Kinney said he decided to turn the handgun over to investigators as Birgfeld’s disappearance grabbed more headlines.

“To the best of my knowledge, it’s still in the Sheriff’s Department’s evidence room,” said Kinney, adding he feels let down by officials’ silence on the issue. “This is the kind of stuff that makes you not want to do your part.”


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