July 5, 2007 -- Three kids. Two ex-husbands. One missing Colorado woman.
Paige Birgfeld, 34, was last heard from a week ago when she called friends in Grand Junction, Colo., on her cell phone from her 2005 Ford Focus.
Two days later, Saturday, June 30, her family reported her missing to the Mesa County Sheriff's Department. An initial K-9 search of the property around her house did not turn up any clues.
Sunday, local Grand Junction police and firefighters responded to a call about a torched car found in an auto parts store parking lot near Interstate 70, the main east-west highway slicing through Colorado's Rocky Mountain range.
After snuffing out the blaze, investigators learned that the car, which was found 3 miles from Birgfeld's house, belonged to the missing woman. The area around the car remains the focal point of a baffling disappearance and search that continues to intensify, said law enforcement authorities.
"We're open to all possibilities," said Heather Gierhart, a spokeswoman for the Mesa County Sheriff's Department, "whether she walked away or was the victim of something."
The investigation remains, for now, a missing person case, Gierhart said, and authorities are following up on a number of leads. While her car is a critical piece of evidence, there's a possibility that it was set ablaze in a random act of vandalism. There have been a string of car arsons in the area, she said.
Robert Dixon, the father of the Birgfeld's three children, has been questioned by the police, Gierhart said. Dixon, she added, is known to local law enforcement officials for his ties to a controversy involving the misuse of fire department funds in Colorado, although he was was never indicted on any charges, Gierhart said.
Paige Birgfeld recently wrote in an online forum for consultants who sell Pampered Chef products that she feared Dixon's return to Durango, Colo., less than a four-hour drive from Grand Junction.
"I'm thinking this is a bit close for my comfort. He could theoretically hang up the phone and be waiting at my house before the kids and I return from errands," Birgfeld posted on ChefSuccess.com using the name Paige Dixon.
Birgfeld also posted a comment suggesting she had rekindled her relationship with her first husband, Howard Beigler. Gierhart would not say whether authorities had interviewed Biegler.
Police responded to reported incidents of domestic violence during both marriages. In the first marriage to Beigler, he was cited for harassment and domestic violence stemming from a 1997 altercation. It was the only record of criminal activity involving Beigler, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
In 2005, Dixon accused his wife of giving topless massages and allegedly punched her in the throat, the Grand Junction Sentinel reported. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, and the case was dismissed after he met the terms of a deferred sentence, according to court records.
Frank Birgfeld, Paige's father, told the Rocky Mountain News that he'd discovered a business card suggesting that his daughter may have worked for an escort service. In her Web postings, she wrote about working various jobs, including teaching dance to children, selling baby products and working for a modeling agency.
Frank Birgfeld spent the Independence Day holiday passing out missing person fliers in Grand Junction. He said he is trying to maintain a positive outlook but added that the search can become frustrating.
"Looking in the brush is kind of an admission of defeat," he told the Rocky Mountain News. "But at the same time, you do it so you can say I did walk around there and didn't see anything."