Grand Junc­tion jury be­gins de­lib­er­a­tions in Jones re­trial

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul

A jury be­gan de­lib­er­a­tions Thurs­day morn­ing in the Grand Junc­tion re­trial for a man ac­cused of kid­nap­ping and mur­der in the slay­ing of Paige Birgfeld, a mother of three whose skele­tal re­mains were found in 2012.

Dan Ru­bin­stein, Mesa County’s district at­tor­ney, says clos­ing ar­gu­ments fin­ished up Wed­nes­day evening, and jurors re­turned at 10 a.m. Thurs­day to be­gin por­ing over the case.

“You never know how long a jury will take,” he said.

It has been roughly a month since the re­trial for 65-year-old Lester Ralph Jones be­gan. The trial is the sec­ond for Jones af­ter a hung jury in Septem­ber led to a mis­trial.

“We are un­able to come to a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion,” the jurors wrote in a note to the court af­ter de­lib­er­at­ing for sev­eral days in Septem­ber. “The jury feels we have ex­hausted our choices.”

Jones is sus­pected of killing Birgfeld, a 34-year-old mother of three who led a double life as a paid es­cort, in 2007. He faces ac­cu­sa­tions of first-de­gree mur­der, sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree kid­nap­ping.

Prose­cu­tors say Jones set Birgfeld’s car on fire and dumped her body in 2007. She was re­ported miss­ing in July of that year, and her car was found torched days later, her per­sonal items strewn near U.S. 50.

Birgfeld’s re­mains were found on March 6, 2012, by a hiker who spot­ted them in the Wells Gulch area in Delta County.

Jones was ar­rested in Novem­ber 2014 with Mesa County Sher­iff Matt Lewis say­ing at the time that while there is a “very cir­cum­stan­tial ba­sis to this case,” he be­lieved au­thor­i­ties had suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence show­ing Jones is Birgfeld’s killer. Sev­eral men were in­ves­ti­gated in con­nec­tion with Birgfeld’s dis­ap­pear­ance and death, in­clud­ing her two ex-hus­bands.

Jones’ de­fense team has worked to sow doubt about their client’s in­volve­ment in Birgfeld’s death through point­ing to the num­ber of other sus­pects probed by in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Jones, who is be­ing held in lieu of $2 mil­lion cash bail, has a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record, in­clud­ing a five-year prison sen­tence for first-de­gree as­sault and sec­ond­de­gree at­tempted kid­nap­ping.

Jones was in­ter­viewed a num­ber of times af­ter Birgfeld’s dis­ap­pear­ance, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors found he fre­quently so­licited pros­ti­tu­tion and pa­tron­ized Birgfeld’s business, in­clud­ing in the days lead­ing up to her dis­ap­pear­ance.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors noted that he was one of the last peo­ple to call Birgfeld be­fore she dis­ap­peared. Au­thor­i­ties said he seemed ner­vous when he was first in­ter­viewed in the sum­mer of 2007, telling them, “I didn’t do it.”

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