Three months after a single mother of three disappeared from a Colorado mountain town and details of her secret life as an escort emerged, authorities have named a suspect in the case.
Paige Birgfeld, 34, was last seen June 28 driving home to her children in Grand Junction, Colo. She never arrived and the next day her Ford Focus was found ablaze in a parking lot.
Now, authorities have named Lester Ralph Jones, a 56-year-old convicted felon with a violent past, as the sole suspect in her disappearance. Jones worked at an RV dealership near where Birgfeld's car was discovered.
"The investigation has continued to focus on those individuals that are believed to have had contact with, or desired to have contact with, the missing woman the night of her disappearance, and also both ex-husbands of Birgfeld," the Mesa County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"Through that effort, investigators have advanced to the point in the investigation that all other persons of interest have been eliminated with the exception of Jones, who is considered a suspect in the disappearance of Birgfeld," the statement continued.
Jones' house had already been searched, but he had not previously been named as a suspect. In July, ABC News' "Primetime" reported that Jones knew Birgfeld intimately — he was a client of her escort service. Birgfeld, who worked as a model and dancer and also sold cookware products, also offered topless massages at an apartment she rented in Grand Junction.
She advertised online on the Web site Naughty Nightlife and her business card was among the items discovered by family and friends in the early days after she vanished. To most, the news came as a surprise.
In mid-July, various items belonging to Birgfeld were discovered along a stretch of highway, south of Grand Junction, including her checkbook and a video store membership card. While initially encouraging, the clues did not lead to the woman.
The investigation also focused on Birgfeld's two ex-husbands, Howard Beigler, with whom she had recently rekindled her relationship, and Ron Dixon, who in 2005 was charged with slapping and punching Birgfeld inside the family's million-dollar Colorado home. Both have cooperated with police and supplied alibis that allowed police to rule them out as suspects.
Jones has not been arrested or charged with any crimes in Birgfeld's disappearance. In 1999, he was convicted in a slew of domestic violence-related crimes, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, including second-degree kidnapping. He was sentenced to five years.