The man who killed a mother-of-three while she was living a secret life as an escort is appealing his conviction as her heartbroken family nearly 15 years later continues to mourn the loss.
Paige Birgfield, 34, disappeared from her home in Grand Junction, Colorado in June 2007, leaving her children with a nanny. An investigation later revealed that Birgfield had a secret: She worked as an escort.
Years later, one of her clients, Lester Ralph Jones, 55, a local RV mechanic was convicted in her death. Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, second-degree murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is currently appealing his conviction.
Details of the case are featured in a new episode of ABC’s 20/20.
Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, second-degree murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is currently appealing his conviction.
Paige Birgfield, 34 (pictured), disappeared from her home in Grand Junction, Colorado in June 2007, leaving her children with a nanny
She was never seen by her family after her disappearance and her remains were later found
After her disappearance, daughter Jess Dixon called her mom looking for her. Paige’s friend, Carol Linderholm, said Dixon and the nanny went to the police station two days after Paige’s disappearance.
Upon learning from the Mason County Sheriff’s Department that Paige was missing, her father, Frank Birgfield said, ‘This is a problem. There is a crime being committed here.’
Her brother Craig Birgfield said that when his father called to tell him Paige was missing, it was the ‘first time I ever heard him cry since I was a little kid. My heart dropped.’
‘Paige was the most outgoing [person] — independent, stubborn at times. Just [a] great sister and terrific mom,’ he told ABC News.
On July 1, three days after she vanished, her red Ford Focus was found burning.
Dan Rubinstein, the Mesa County district attorney, pointed toward arson at the time and suspected that she may have been kidnapped.
‘Prior to finding the vehicle on fire, this was a missing persons case, and as soon as that happened, it was an immediate conversion over to ‘that is foul play,” Rubinstein said.
The driver’s seat of the car had been pushed back, suggesting someone taller than Paige may have been driving the vehicle.
Paige’s day planner also was in the car, which had pages ripped out on the dates she was missing. After the car was found, a desperate search for Paige began.
Investigators later discovered that Paige Birgfield had been living a double life
‘We came here from Seattle to support my parents, to take care of the kids and to find Paige,’ Craig Birgfield said. ‘We bought a one-way ticket, and we’ve been committed to stay[ing] here until we find Paige.’
Investigators looked at second ex-husband Rob Dixon, who was married to Paige Birgfield from 1998 to 2006.
Frank Birgfield described their relationship as ‘extremely volatile,’ with his daughter calling police at one point in 2004 to report a fight, in which he said ‘that I would come home and find them all murdered,’ according to the 911 call.
‘We were, of course, very interested in Rob Dixon as a potential suspect because we knew about the volatility of the relationship,’ Rubinstein said of the investigation.
Rubinstein reveals Dixon’s phone provided an alibi for him, though. ‘He had moved to Philadelphia at that point, and we were quickly able to show that his phone was in Philadelphia at that time and he couldn’t have been in two places at once,’ Rubinstein said.
Her car was found burnt out, with some investigators suspecting it was arson
Authorities also looked at Ron Beigler, who was married to her from 1995 to 1997. They had rekindled their relationship after Paige’s first divorce and Beigler saw her around 7pm the day she disappeared.
But he was ruled out almost immediately and cell phone tower data showed he was near Denver when she disappeared, nowhere near Grand Junction.
Another twist came days after the car was found, when a motorist with a flat tire came across her checkbook, among other items.
‘One check was torn out at a time. One card was thrown at a time. So it appears she was just trying to leave us a trail of breadcrumbs to show us where she was going,’ said Mesa County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Wayne Weyler.
One of the items was a business card, which helped unveil her secret life as an escort, as well as a former stripper who danced as ‘Madison’ in Denver in the 1990s, according to investigators.
Dixon told police that he learned of her escort services, which is what led to the 2005 incident between them. She started her own escort company the same year.
‘Paige charged the most that I’ve ever heard. … In some cases … up to $2,500 and, for the most part, $1,000 to $1,200 for sex,’ Weyler claimed.
Lester Jones was later convicted in her death
Friend Barbra Campbell pointed to financial troubles as a factor in Paige’s burgeoning escort service. Phone records narrowed suspects down to at least seven suspects.
Jones, a client, had a history of sexual assault and kidnapping, drawing the focus of investigators.
‘He’s a very large, overpowering person,’ Linderholm said of Jones.
Jones worked at a shop across the street from where Paige’s car was aflame. He also matched the potential height for the driver’s seat position of her car.
Investigators got in touch with Jones on July 5, 2007 and he agreed to questioning, cooperating fully and giving up the keys to his white Dodge pickup truck.
He denied any knowledge about Paige’s disappearance or location, though.
Jones was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in a second trial
But police K-9 dogs discovered Jones’ scent in the burnt car, as well as the scent of a dead body that was previously there. Yet he couldn’t be charged without more concrete evidence.
Five years later in March 2012, a hiker happened upon her remains in a gulch, obscured by rocks and weeds. Through dental records and DNA, Paige was identified.
‘We can surmise that she was taken out to that area, tied up and duct-taped to keep silent,’ Weyler said.
Eventually, Jones was arrested in November 2014, charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and kidnapping. His trial began in July 2016 but ended in a mistrial on September 9, 2016.
The jury had failed to reach a verdict, however prosecutors retried the case.
Rubinstein said, ‘I was convinced that there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It needed to be presented differently. It needed to be presented more concisely.’
The people who knew Paige continue to mourn almost 15 years after her disappearance
Ten weeks later, a new trial began, with prosecutors utilizing surveillance video of her office on the day Jones tried contacting Paige for her services before she disappeared.
The people who knew Paige continue to mourn for their loss almost 15 years after her disappearance.
‘She was working probably about four or five different jobs [that] she was very knowledgeable about,’ said Linderholm.
‘She developed a business of baby slings. She taught brain dance classes to little children and she really enjoyed that.’