11 News Special Report: Where is Paige?

By: Natalie Pallone Email
By: Natalie Pallone Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - More than two years ago a Grand Junction mother of three disappeared.

What happened to Paige Birgfeld is a question her father and the Mesa County Sheriff have looked tirelessly to answer.

In this 11 News Special Report Anchor Natalie Pallone sits down with both of them to find out where the investigation stands.

Her dad Frank Birgfeld says, “I think the thing I miss the most is hearing Paige laugh, hearing her voice.”

It’s nearly three years since anyone has seen Paige Birgfeld and not a day has gone by that her father hasn’t thought about her.

“Some days are an emotional rollercoaster with the steep downhills and never the uphills,” he says.

She was beautiful and caring, but this Grand Junction mother of three also led a secret double life as an adult escort, something investigators with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office has said made their job harder.

Sheriff Stan Hilkey says, “Next June will be three years. The case remains unsolved and open.”

Hilkey has been on the case ever since June 28, 2007 when Paige was reported missing.

On July 1, her car was found abandoned and on fire in a parking lot near her home and in the days and months that followed her family, investigators and volunteers set out on foot and horseback looking for any sign of Paige.

An extensive search along Highway 50 near Whitewater turned up some clues, some of Paige’s personal checks, a Blockbuster video card, insurance cards for her and her children and even a shoe possibly worn by Paige were all found.

“I'm unaware that anything has come of material found on Highway 50 so I guess were back where we were then,” her dad says.

Frank hasn’t stopped searching for his daughter and believes he’s been left out of the investigation, writing letter after letter to the Sheriff’s Office.

“I'm looking for an active investigation. They may say that's what's going on but I don't see it. I'm left trying to communicate and we don't seem to have much cooperation on that,” he says.

Hilkey says the investigation is extremely active and his office is focused on the sole suspect in the case, Lester Ralph Jones.

He says, “We believe there was a connection between the two, the type and specifics we haven't talked a lot about.”

But Frank’s not sold on Jones. “I have informants and they say Paige knew him and found him repulsive, I think she would have been weary being around him. I also think there was no interaction that would have caused him to have a preplanned motive to harm.”

Frank also thinks that if Jones was the one who harmed his daughter, he wasn’t working alone.

“There's a considerable possibility that there was someone else present when Paige was harmed and that connection would help greatly if Jones and another where doing weekend work in Delta County in June and July of 2007 and that be important for me to know and could lead to finding Paige,” Frank says.

Frank also has another theory, a murder for hire plot.

Hilkey says, “I can't comment on his theories or what he believes. We have to concentrate on the investigation as we know and be confident that what we've done is good work. Really good work.”

Hilkey says he wants to solve Paige’s case as much as Frank does, but unfortunately, they have to cross every t and dot every i and that takes time.

But the investigation is picking up steam.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation just finished up a round of DNA testing on items relating to the case, Hikley says. “We are hopeful that these latest tests will show a link between our persons of interest and Paige Birgfeld.

But even if it does and Joes is arrested, Frank says he won’t be satisfied.

“I would feel like it was progress but I wouldn't feel like it was a conclusion by a long shot,” he says.

Hilkey says, “If there was new information that would come in on where to go and where to search or a new lead to follow at this point we would take it.”

As the Sheriff’s Office waits to see if the latest DNA tests are the link they’ve been looking for Frank says he’ll continue to explore every avenue he can in the hope of finding his baby girl. “This is my daughter,” he says.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office at 244–3500.

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