Too many missing women, too few answers
Will Paige Birgfeld, Lisa Stebic, or Stepha Henry be found alive?
Of the 51,000 adults currently listed as missing in the United States, most know the story of 34-year-old Paige Birgfeld, the Colorado mother of two who has been missing since June 28.
What makes Birgfeld’s story different is the two lives that she led up to her disappearance, one as the twice-divorced woman who sold Pampered Chef products and taught dance lessons to preschoolers, and another as a one-woman escort service who used the Internet to advertise the various personal services she offered to meet the needs of some men.
Paige, known to her escort service clients as “Carrie,” may have been attempting to rekindle her relationship with her first husband the night she disappeared. He apparently was one of the few who knew of her night time activities with other men, indicating that she had told him that she had two clients to see after she left him that evening. Her cellphone was later used within a few miles from her home, and her burned down car was subsequently found in an auto parts lot, but Paige never made it home that night and has not been seen since.
Investigators would need to consider her two former husbands and the clients of her escort service as possible suspects in her disappearance— especially the two clients she allegedly told her first husband she was going to meet the night she disappeared. She also had other business dealings, but it was her escort service clients that attracted the attention of investigators after they accounted for her two former husbands.
It is from that client list that a current “person of interest” has been identified, this after authorities searched his home twice seeking evidence that could further link him to the missing woman. 56-year-old Lester Ralph Jones has a history of domestic violence, including a 1999 arrest for kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon against his then-wife, for which he was convicted and sentenced to a five years the state prison. One media report suggests the obvious: that Jones was a client of Birgfeld's escort service. What makes him perhaps even more interesting to law enforcement is the fact that the RV repair company where he works is just a short distance from where Paige’s burned out car was found.
If you were an investigator trying to find Paige, you might also consider the possibility that one of the clients she was allegedly going to spend time with the night she disappeared could have been Jones. If evidence was developed— perhaps a record of a telephone call between Paige and Jones or an appointment noted on her personal calendar in reference to him— then she could have met him at a location convenient for both of them, like the parking lot of the auto parts facility. Somehow, though, the working theory would also need to explain how items from her purse (her video store card, her checkbook registry and checks, etc.) were found strewn along the median of a highway miles from where her car was found. Could her assailant, in that theory Ralph Jones, have thrown them out of his car after being with Paige? Or could she have sensed her peril and surreptitiously dropped them from the car that was taking her away from her home and children?
Jones, whose current wife was out of town on the 28th, is a man who chased his former wife at speeds of over 100 mph, rammed her car, ran her off the road, and forced her at gunpoint to come with him. If Jones or another client of Paige’s escort service (known to its clients as Models, Inc.) had an appointment with her the night she disappeared, it’s likely that they will be much more than “persons of interest” should they not be able to account for their activities on that night.
Meanwhile there are two children who now have no mother. They’re now with their father, Paige’s second husband. Paige’s father has been named by a judge as his missing daughter’s conservator until she returns. It's a thread of hope that her family clings to, and they continually cite the case of Elizabeth Smart as evidence that Paige could still come home.
Meanwhile up to 100 volunteers braved 95 degree temperatures this weekend as they pressed their ground search for Paige. The searchers perhaps shared the hope of Paige’s father — that she’s out there somewhere alive and waiting for help. We hope they’re right.
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