Paige Birgfeld, 34, was a well-liked mother of three who sold kitchenwares from her Grand Junction, Colorado home and participated in a mom group, so authorities were puzzled when she was reported missing on June 28, 2007. Her eight-year-old daughter was the one who told the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office that her mother hadn’t come home.
Birgfeld’s car was found a few days later, on July 1, 2007, on fire in a parking lot in Grand Junction, CBS Denver reported. There was no sign of Birgfeld in the vehicle. Her personal belongings, business cards, checks, and other items were found strewn along the side of Highway 50 and authorities said they believe they were left by Paige as clues for where she was being taken.
As investigators looked into her disappearance, a picture of Birgfeld’s double life running an escort business began to emerge.
Her Daughter Reported Her Missing in July 2007 & Investigators Soon Learned of Her Double Life as an Escort
Soon after Birgfeld’s daughter reported her missing, investigators found out about her business, Models Inc., while interviewing her acquaintances. The mother of three, who was twice-divorced, was also known in online ads as “Carrie,” a high-priced escort. Her family didn’t know about this side of her and believed she’d turned to it to help pay off her debts, including a huge mortgage.
Her daughter, who was eight when she reported Birgfeld missing, testified during the murder trial when she was 17 years old and said, “She was your typical soccer mom. We did everything with her… She provided us with everything we needed,” KJCT8 reported from the trial. She testified that she had an idea of her mother’s escort business but didn’t really understand what it was: “At the time, I believed it was just massages and dancing.”
Investigators found a day planner in the trunk of her burned-out car but the four pages leading up to her disappearance had been torn out. They also noticed that the drivers’ seat had been pushed all the way back, despite Birgfeld being only 5’4″, True Crime Daily wrote. Investigators then began the process of eliminating Birgfeld’s potential clients as suspects and soon narrowed in on one, Lester Ralph Jones.
Birgfeld’s Remains Were Found by Hikers in 2012 & It Appeared That She May Have Been Beaten
Two hikers discovered skeletal remains in Delta County that authorities said appeared to have once been buried until erosion exposed it, the Denver Post reported. Dental records confirmed that the remains were Birgfeld’s. Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubenstein told CBS News, “We had her jaw, and her skull was found intact with the teeth, and we were able to get her dental records and verify … that the dental records matched up with the teeth.”
However, he said investigators couldn’t determine an exact cause of death, but her bones showed certain injuries, including a badly fractured cheekbone which “occurred at or near the time of her death,” Rubenstein told the outlet. He also said duct tape was found in the area where her remains were found, indicating that Birgfeld may have been tied up and beaten.
Jones was later arrested and charged with her murder as prosecutors argued he kidnapped her and murdered her, dumping her body in Delta County and then setting her car on fire afterward.
When Birgfeld’s body was found, her father Frank Birgfeld told CBS News, “My feelings were a heavy dose of sadness. Even when we were searching, you wanted to find her, but you didn’t want to find her.” He said he would remember her radiance and how she was as a mother to her three kids:
Motherhood was central to her life. The kids meant everything. As far as a legacy, I remember Paige’s smile. I would call it radiant. In her obituary, it was said that she was so radiant it made the sun jealous. And I think that would be, at least for me, what sticks with me the most.