GOLDEN — A former FBI agent described this morning how Michael Blagg, when urged by interrogators to “tell the truth” about the 2001 disappearance of his wife and young daughter from the family’s suburban Mesa County home, became emotional and repeatedly said “I can’t.”
Bill Irwin, who was brought in to help with a lengthy questioning session three months after Jennifer and 6-year-old Abby Blagg went missing from the Redlands, told Jefferson County jurors this morning that toward the end of the 10 1/2-hour session at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Blagg became emotional.
“He appeared to be crying, and actually laid his head on (Mesa County Sheriff’s Investigator Wayne) Weyler’s shoulder,” Irwin said from the witness stand before turning to a transcript of the interaction. “ … Weyler says, ‘Tell the truth.’ Blagg says, ‘I can’t.’ Weyler says, ‘You can.’ Blagg says, ‘I can’t.’”
Blagg is being tried on a murder charge in Jefferson County following a reversal of his earlier conviction by a Mesa County jury after one of its members was discovered to have lied about her background.
Blagg is only charged with the murder of his wife, as the body of his 6-year-old daughter Abby — who disappeared the same day as her mother — has never been found.
Irwin testified at length about the interview, which in accordance with an FBI policy at the time wasn’t recorded. He described in somewhat graphic terms Blagg’s explanations of his pornography use, which he eventually admitted was an item of contention in his marriage.
At points during the interview-turned-interrogation, Blagg — who Irwin said had undergone military training on how to withstand intense questioning — put his head in his hands.
“He appeared to be contemplating very carefully the information, the things that I was telling him,” Irwin said.
Deputy State Public Defender Tina Fang during cross-examination honed in on errors Mesa County sheriff’s investigators made that led Irwin to operate under some faulty information during the interaction. This included a flawed computer analysis that made it appear that somebody had viewed pornography sites on the Blagg’s home computer late at night before Jennifer and Abby went missing, and that Blagg had sent an apology letter to his wife at work the same day she disappeared. In fact, FBI analysis later indicated that nobody had viewed pornography sites since the month before Jennifer and Abby’s disappearance, and the apology appeared to have been written the weekend before the crime.
Earlier in the morning, Fang’s co-counsel, Scott Troxell, attempted to cast doubt on the prosecution’s theory that Jennifer’s body arrived at the Mesa County Landfill by way of the dumpster at Ametek Dixson. In a highly technical session of examination, Troxell questioned Norm Kivett, who in 2001 managed the landfill, about where and in what amount trash was dumped, and about how it was spread out with heavy machinery and covered with tarps.
At one point Troxell approached the witness stand with a calculator, asking Kivett to calculate how many days’ worth of trash searchers combed through during their weeks-long search for the bodies of Jennifer and Abby.
Troxell asked about whether Jennifer’s body could have been placed in the landfill on a different day than trash from her husband’s workplace, noting that her detached leg was found more than nine feet above the layer of Ametek Dixson waste.
“It’s possible, but I don’t know,” Kivett responded.
When redirected by lead prosecutor Trish Mahre, Kivett said that day-to-day information wasn’t kept in 2001 about where exactly trucks dumped and in how wide of an area.
See the full story in Friday’s Daily Sentinel.