Grand Junction jury begins deliberations in Jones retrial
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.”