"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
It was the 28th of June 2007. A Thursday. Paige Birgfeld was happy. At thirty four years of age, she had everything she had ever wanted. Her three beautiful children. For Paige, that was what life was about. Being a mother. And she was great at it.
Paige had been married twice. She married her high school sweetheart Ron Beigler and they were married for around two years. That marriage didn't last because in 1997 she met Rob Dixon. Paige and Rob married when she divorced Ron. They had three children together and Rob had a successful business and was a wealthy man. They bought a spacious home in Grand Junction, Colorado, United States.
Grand Junction, Colorado, United States
But their perfect life didn't last. Rob was reckless with money. He made poor investment choices and spent money on things he didn't need. As a result, there was no money for the mortgage or bills. Paige quickly put a plan in place. She started her own business - a dance school and sold kitchen supplies for a company called The Pampered Chef. Paige was so good at selling that she quickly became one of their top sales agents. As she made money though, Rob spent it and they soon had almost nothing.
The problems they had financially led to other issues in their marriage too. According to Paige, Rob had a short temper and in October 2004, Paige had to call the police for help. She told them:
"My husband and I were in a fight and he wanted the children to stay with him and he said that I would come home and find them all murdered."
No charges were filed in that matter but just one year later, Paige called police again. She told police that Rob punched her while she was holding the baby. He was arrested and the case was later settled. Rob completed a course in anger management.
Paige and Rob divorced in 2006. Rob had declared bankruptcy and moved to Philadelphia. Rob said that the marriage ended for a different reason. He discovered his wife had an adult entertainment business.
Despite her marriage ending, Paige stayed in the family home and continued providing for her three children. She was very close to her family and had many friends in the area. She had also started dating her first husband Ron again. It was early days but things were going well. On the 28th of June 2007, Ron and Paige went on a date.
Ron and Paige met at a rest stop. It was a halfway point between her house and Ron's house. They had a picnic and then went their separate ways that evening. When Paige was nearly home, around 9pm, she called Ron. She told him she would call him when she got home. But she didn't. So Ron called her the next day but the call went straight to voicemail. On Saturday morning, Ron called Paige's house phone and the nanny answered. That's when Ron discovered that Paige had not been home since Thursday night. He called her parents to let them know and told the police that Paige was missing.
Police spoke to Ron. He told them that he and Paige met for a picnic in Eagle, Colorado, from about 1pm until 7pm. He stated that after their picnic, he drove back to Denver and he saw Paige drive her car onto west bound I-70 towards Grand Junction. He last spoke to her at 9pm that night when she told him she was in Grand Junction and almost home. Ron told police that Paige said she would have to meet a client on the way home.
Police checked Paige's phone records and one of the last calls she made was the one to Ron on the Thursday night. When she made that call she told Ron she was almost home and the phone records and cell tower data confirmed she was just a few miles from her house. Her family knew there was no way Paige would have left or went anywhere without her three children so they feared that something very bad happened to their daughter.
Police, Paige's family and friends began searching the area looking for her. Paige's brother moved into her house with his wife so that they could look after the children. On the 1st of July, around 10pm, Paige's car was found on fire in an empty parking lot. The parking lot was just two miles from her home. It was established that the fire was started from inside the car, on the passenger side. No clues were found as to what happened to Paige.
Some items were found in Paige's car such as women’s clothing, a Pampered Chef booklet, a day planner, business cards, and a picnic basket. The day planner was water logged, but not burned. Several pages had been removed from the day planner. The pages removed were for June 26th, June 27th, June 28th, and June 29th, 2007.
Police had a list of men that they needed to investigate. One of the first men that police spoke to was Rob Dixon. They were aware their marriage had ended badly and Paige's friends said that she was afraid of him. Just three months before she disappeared, Paige wrote on a message board:
"My children would ask me if Dad was going to kill me. I can't imagine what they were thinking life would be like after he killed me."
But despite their volatile relationship, Rob was cleared by police. He had an alibi and was in Philadelphia when Paige went missing. He told police that Paige would not have left their three children.
When police cleared both of Paige's ex husbands, they had to try to establish if there was anybody else in Paige's life who would want to harm her. They still didn't know where she was. Paige's checkbook and a membership card were found along a highway 15 miles from where her car was found. The area that they had to search was vast due to the number of canyons. Police looked through Paige's computer and cell phone and discovered something that her family had no idea about. Paige had another business, an escort business.
Paige herself appeared in some of the ads online as a high class escort called "Carrie". A session with Carrie , according to the ad, included stripping, dancing and role play and extras were available such as nude and topless massages. Her family were shocked. But it was clear that Paige was doing it for the money. Her mortgage was US$6000 per month and she was the only one providing for her children. It was also a line of work that she was familiar with. When she was twenty one, Paige made $400,000 working as a stripper. The discovery of the escort line of work led police in a different direction. They looked at the people who had last called Paige, just before she went missing.
Paige's family didn't know about her business but both Rob and Ron did. Ron told police that Paige ran an adult entertainment business but she was the only one who worked there. He told them that the day she went missing, her phone did not stop ringing when they were having a picnic. Paige told him she would have to meet a client as he had been waiting all day. Ron told them that Paige had an office and the sign said "Acupuncture" on the door. She told Ron that a month ago a man had blocked her in his truck as she left the office. That incident had frightened her. He did not know who she had to meet on her way home from their picnic that night.
One of her clients, a thirty year old man, called her twenty times the day she went missing. He left the area rather abruptly just two days later. Another client, fifty six year old Lester Ralph Jones, was one of the last people to call Paige. Lester lived with his third wife and worked as a mechanic at an RV shop. The RV shop was across the road from the parking lot where Paige's car was found on fire. Search dogs led investigators from the parking lot to the RV shop.
Lester Ralph Jones
On the night Paige went missing, she received a call from a Tracfone which is a prepaid wireless phone. Surveillance footage revealed that Lester bought one at a Walmart. The first number Paige called on the 28th of June after she left Ron and before returning to Grand Junction from Eagle was that Tracfone. But while it was established that Lester used Paige's adult entertainment business and other similar businesses, he denied any involvement in her disappearance and when police first questioned him, Paige had not been found.
That changed in March 2012. In the Wells Gulch area in Delta County, a hiker found partial remains. Dental records confirmed that it was a match to Paige. Dr. Bull, a forensic odontologist, compared known dental records of Paige to the teeth in the skull and mandible and made a positive identification. CBI later confirmed the identity by developing a DNA profile from a molar tooth extracted from the mandible. Her jaw, skull and teeth were found. Some more of her bones were found close to the area at a later date.
Paige's cause of death could not be determined but her cheekbone was badly fractured which indicated she may have been beaten and there was duct tape found in the area where the remains were found which indicated she may have been tied and possibly gagged. Dr. Havlik ruled the manner of death a homicide with an undetermined cause of death.
In 2014, Lester was arrested and charged with kidnapping and first degree murder. Lester had been in trouble before. His criminal record revealed that he was arrested for two incidents involving his ex wife in 1999. He threatened to take her to a remote place and kill her. He served three years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and assault charges.
The case against Lester was a circumstantial case. Nobody saw him with Paige that night, nobody knew how she died, there was no confession and no DNA to link him to the crime.
It was the Prosecution's case that Lester kidnapped and killed Paige in 2007, then set her car on fire and dumped her body. The Prosecution focused on the phone, the throwaway phone. The only calls on it were to Paige and they ended at the time of her disappearance. The phone was not used to make or take any other calls.
It was the Prosecution's case that Lester was home alone the week that Paige disappeared. His wife returned to town on the 30th of June. Every night, with the exception of the 28th of June, Lester used his laptop to search for pornographic images and those searches went on late into the night every night except for the 28th of June.
When his wife returned on the 30th of June, she said that Lester collected her in their Impala which was unusual as he normally drove his Dodge truck. She did not know why he didn't collect her in the Dodge truck. She told the police on the 1st of July, the same day that Paige's car was found on fire in the parking lot across from his workplace, Lester went to work at 9pm that night. He said that he left the lights on and had to switch them off. He returned around 10pm. The RV shop is around a 20 minute drive from his home. Somebody called police at 10pm that same night to report that Paige's car was on fire.
The Prosecution also outlined the findings from the car. The search dogs had led investigators from the parking lot to the RV shop but they also alerted them to Lester's scent inside the car and on the driving seat. The seat was pushed back, indicating that someone taller than Paige had driven the car last.
During the search of the RV shop, a locked drawer of Lester's tool box was found to contain a black bra, a hand written list of phone numbers, ladies names, their bra sizes and references to yes or no concerning sex, a condom, a package of Viagra, a case for glasses with no glasses in them and two male wigs.
Police also searched a locked metal cabinet in the RV shop which was only used by Lester and he had the keys for it. The cabinet was beside his workbench and toolbox and inside, police found a food scale with “The Pampered Chef" logo and what appeared to be a black plastic vehicle ashtray.
Police discovered a partial package for a Tracfone in the trash in the RV shop. There was also a small gas can found at the RV shop and the other employees did not know why it was there.
The Defense said that there were several other men who could have been involved in Paige's murder and it was not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Lester. It was their case that Paige had many clients, one such client had called her multiple times the very day she went missing. The Jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. Several of them had reasonable doubt.
The Jury at Lester's second Trial had no doubts and they found him guilty of murder in the first degree and guilty of kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He also was sentenced to 12 years in prison with three years of parole for second degree kidnapping.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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