It’s been two days since Jess Birgfeld last saw her mom Paige – an apparent supermom by anyone’s definition. No doubt feverishly worried, Jess subsequently insists that her nanny calls the police. Little does she know, however, that she’ll never see her mom again. What’s more, the reasons for Paige’s disappearance will turn her family’s lives upside down.
Paige Birgfeld was 34 years old at the time of her disappearance in 2007. She lived in Grand Junction, Colorado, a single mom to her three kids, Taft, Kohl and Jess. She’d been divorced twice, with all three of her children having been born to her second husband, Robert Dixon.
Birgfeld did everything she could to support her daughter and sons. She ran several businesses from home, selling products such as baby slings and kitchenware. She also undertook a number of other entrepreneurial ventures, including opening a dance school.
Her daughter Jess described her as a “soccer mom.” Clearly devoted to her kids, Birgfeld drove them everywhere and even allowed them to sleep in her bed. She was, indeed, the very definition of a supermom. But events were soon to send her children’s lives into a tailspin.
On Thursday June 28, 2007, she traveled 120 miles for a date with 37-year-old Howard Biegler, her first husband. The date seemed to go smoothly, and just after 9:00 p.m., she called Biegler to tell him that she was nearly home. However, Birgfeld didn’t come home that Thursday.
Image: via NBCNews
In fact, Birgfeld still hadn’t arrived home by Saturday. Unusual working hours were simply part and parcel of all her many jobs and businesses, though, and so her children’s nanny thought nothing of it. Her daughter Jess, on the other hand, did – and subsequently insisted that her nanny call the cops.
The next day, the police discovered Birgfeld’s Ford Focus burnt out in a parking lot, some three miles from her Grand Junction home. Meanwhile, various of her belongings, including business cards and checks, were found discarded along a highway southeast of her home. The situation didn’t look good.
Furthermore, the investigation into Birgfeld’s disappearance soon took another ominous turn when police discovered a shocking secret about her professional life. Alongside all of her other business ventures, there was one enterprise that she hadn’t made public knowledge.
It turned out that Birgfeld had secretly been running an escort service – a fact known only by her closest friends. Indeed, not even her own family members were aware of what she was up to. Her father, Frank Birgfeld, told the Daily Mail, “I can’t tell you how negatively I would have responded.”
What’s more, during her 20s Birgfeld had enjoyed a successful stint as an exotic dancer. She had, in fact, even met her second husband while working at a strip club. However, Birgfeld’s later divorce from him left her in dire financial straits, and that was when she turned to escorting to pay the bills.
According to her friends, Birgfeld would usually go on the dates that she organized rather than sending other women. And yet they claimed that she wouldn’t “prostitute” herself. Nevertheless, her ads described her services as those of an “escort, erotic massage [and] private dancer.”
“There is a very clear line between legal and illegal and she made sure that line was never crossed,” Jamie Silvernail, an old friend of Birgfeld’s, told People magazine. “She knew if she crossed that line, she could jeopardize her kids.”
Despite this revelation, however, and the interviews with clients of Birgfeld’s escort business that subsequently ensued, police still found no trace of her for five long years. Then in 2012 a hiker made a horrifying discovery in Delta County.
Yes, the hiker pulled up bones from a creek bed. And through the use of dental records, it was determined that they belonged to Birgfeld. The missing person case had turned into a homicide, with the police now hoping to find fresh leads from this new evidence.
Soon, officers turned again to Lester Ralph Jones, a mechanic from Colorado whom they had considered a “person of interest” back in 2007. A client of Birgfeld’s, Jones was one of the last people to contact her before her disappearance. And eventually, in November 2014, police arrested him.
On the night of Birgfeld’s murder, Jones had left his house for an hour or so, making an excuse to his wife about forgetting to switch off the lights at work. Moreover, not long after Birgfeld’s disappearance, police discovered a number of suspicious objects in his toolbox. These items included phone numbers of escorts, their bra sizes and men’s wigs. In addition, there was a food scale of the type that Birgfeld sold through one of her businesses.
Prior to his arrest in 2014, Jones already held a criminal record for first-degree assault and second-degree kidnapping. Indeed, he’d actually spent five years behind bars. What’s more, over the course of the investigation into Birgfeld’s disappearance, he’d given police contradictory statements – no doubt further ramping up their suspicions.
With the case against him growing stronger, Jones stood trial in September 2016. However, the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict, so proceedings ended in a mistrial. Jones’ second trial was then to be held three months later, in December 2016.
This time the jury found the now 65-year-old Jones guilty. Consequently, he was convicted of murder and kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. The Mesa County Prosecutor’s Office told People magazine, “While this verdict will not bring Paige Birgfeld back to her family, we are happy it will give her family closure.”
When Paige Birgfeld disappeared that June night in 2007, her poor kids couldn’t have known that it would be the last time they’d see her – or that the shocking truth of their mom’s double life would soon come to light. However, they can hopefully rest a tiny bit easier knowing that her killer has finally been brought to justice.