On June 28, 2007, Colorado housewife Paige Birgfeld vanished. Birgfeld, who was 37 at the time of her disappearance, was a mother of three and appeared to friends and family to be normal. However, her disappearance would reveal that she was secretly hiding a double life.
The day she disappeared, she had left her three children with a live-in babysitter while she visited a friend. She never returned from that trip.
According to family, Birgfeld lived for her children, and she would never abandon them. This led them to immediately speculate that something must have gone wrong. “This is a crime. There’s a crime here,” her father, Frank Birgfeld, told reporters. He expressed doubt that Paige would ever leave her kids behind. “Instantly, I knew this was a problem.”
On Sunday, July 1, 2007, investigators were confronted with the first physical evidence in the case. Onlookers reported finding Birgfeld’s Ford Focus ablaze in a parking lot not far from her house.
Examiners searched the car for any clues as to her whereabouts, and worry over her safety increased dramatically. While investigators initially considered that Birgfeld may have been taking an extended break from her family, the discovery of the burning car added urgency to the investigation.
A massive volunteer search effort ensued. Investigators contacted friends and family to find out clues about Paige’s life, anything that could lead to learning where she had gone. Though she had been married twice, Paige was single at the time of her disappearance, which led them to look into any potential boyfriends or significant romantic partners.
The Secret Life
Paige had significant debt and bills piling up, as well as a $6,000 per month mortgage on a massive home in Colorado. While looking into her income, the investigation uncovered Paige’s other job: while she was a dance class instructor by day, she was moonlighting as an escort under the name “Carrie”.
This led investigators to her client list, looking through her cellphone records to find out who she had been in contact with. One contact, an ex-con named Lester Ralph Jones, struck the detectives as suspicious.
In 2012, a hiker found Paige’s remains in the Wells Gulch region of Colorado. A lengthy legal process led to a 2014 mistrial of Jones as the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on his guilt or innocence. After another trial, in 2016, a jury found him guilty on charges of kidnapping and murdering Paige Birgfeld.
He was sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole.