Sheriff’s department unfairly accused

It’s understandable that Frank Birgfeld wants to make sure that the investigation into the disappearance of his daughter two years ago was handled as professionally as possible.

But attacking the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department based on the word of an anonymous source used in a television crime show about Paige Birgfeld’s disappearance is not the best way to go about that.

Based on the CBS program “48 Hours,” and an unnamed informant quoted by the show, Frank Birgfeld apparently believes the sheriff’s department discovered “tens of thousands of dollars” in cash during a 2007 search of Paige Birgfeld’s home.

Sheriff Stan Hilkey says they found $50.

No matter. Birgfeld has contacted the FBI, asking the federal agency to investigate what he claims is “missing money.”

He has also written letters to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, demanding that the CBI take over the Birgfeld case and that the attorney general appoint someone to oversee the transfer of evidence from the sheriff’s department to the CBI.

To their credit, both the CBI and Attorney General Suthers have said they have no authority to commandeer a local case. Moreover, the CBI has already invested hundreds of hours, helping to investigate and doing lab work related to the case.

Hilkey, meanwhile, has said he would welcome an FBI examination into the mysterious — and allegedly missing — money. That may be the best way to resolve this distraction.

We have always supported the rights of journalists to use unnamed sources and to keep those sources confidential from authorities. The folks at “48 Hours” certainly have that right.

But if there is no more evidence for the ghostly cash than the claims of one unnamed television informant, the FBI shouldn’t spend too much time on this.

And the good reputation of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department shouldn’t be tarnished because of it. After all, to accept Birgfeld’s claims, you have to believe officials with the sheriff’s department either stole or lost substantial amounts of cash.

Any parent in Birgfeld’s situation would want to know what happened to his daughter. And, after nearly two years, it is hardly surprising he is becoming impatient.

But making broad public accusations about the sheriff’s department based on very little evidence only distracts from efforts to determine what happened to Paige.


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