Those close to Paige Birgfeld knew her as a loving mother of three young children and an energetic small business woman. But police revealed this weekend that Birgfeld, who disappeared June 28, led another life, one kept secret from her friends and family: she ran a local escort service.
In doing so, the 34-year old Colorado resident appears to have joined the ranks of many seemingly ordinary Americans who lead hidden lives. News reports abound with stories of men with multiple families, married teachers who have illicit affairs with their students or otherwise upstanding businessmen who struggle with hidden drug problems or visit escort services.
The details of the Birgfeld case are still emerging and it's too soon to know what drove her to work in the escort business. Some forensic psychologists point to significant differences between runing an escort service and some other types of secret illicit activity, like having an affair with a student.
But forensic psychologists say that people who lead dual lives are often driven by many of the same factors, including easy money, personality disorders and the thrill of illicit and sometimes dangerous activities.
"There's no one profile," said Gregg McCrary, a retired criminal profiler with the FBI. "It's usually a combination of things -- money, emotional needs, the need to have a secret life, the need to be risk taking."
That duality can lead to dangerous consequences. "If the secret life is more rewarding than the normal life, then you may get addicted to the secret life," said forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland. "The two lives are going to clash one way or the other."
Police Suspect Foul Play
Authorities now say that Birgfeld went by the name "Carrie" when dealing with customers of "Models, Inc.," an escort service that police say she ran.
Until Saturday, authorities in Colorado were treating Birgfeld as a missing person, even suggesting that she may have staged her own disappearance.
But new information about her escort agency, combined with a lack of any evidence indicating she voluntarily went missing, altered the investigative track over the weekend. Police are investigating potential clients who may have dealt with Birgfeld around the time she disappeared.
"We so far haven't found a single piece of evidence that indicated she left on her own free will," said Heather Gierhart, a spokeswoman for the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.
The Money Is Fantastic
Though it is still unclear what led Birgfeld to run Models, Inc., one possible -- and obvious -- explanation for behavior like Birgfeld's is money.
"Generally the primary motive is money," said ABC News Consultant Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and the head of The Forensic Panel, adding that the escort business would allow someone in Birgfeld's position to quickly make a lot of money without any advanced education or training.
"Without interviewing her, my only frame of reference is what comes up time and again," he said. "And time and again the money is fantastic and you can't beat it."
Police say Birgfeld, the mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3, worked several jobs. In addition to the escort agency, she ran a chef's consulting business, taught dance to preschoolers and sold baby products.