GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — A man was convicted Tuesday of murder and kidnapping in the 2007 death of a single mother from Colorado who led a double life as a paid escort.
A judge sentenced 65-year-old Lester Ralph Jones to life in prison without parole after the jury delivered its verdict, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/2ic0hhX).
It was Jones' second trial in the killing of Paige Birgfeld. The first ended in a mistrial in September when jurors couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.
Birgfeld was 34 when she disappeared in 2007. Friends described her as a devoted mother of three children who ran several businesses to support them.
In the first trial, Birgfeld's 17-year-old daughter, Jess Dixon, testified that Birgfeld was a "soccer mom" who took her and her two brothers to school and games and let them all sleep in her bed.
Police uncovered details of Birgfield's escort business after she disappeared. Investigators said Jones was one of her clients and was among the last people to call her before she vanished.
In the second trial, Jones' lawyers argued there was no physical evidence tying him to Birgfeld's death. They suggested a man who died in 2011 could have killed her.
Detectives said they had questioned and ruled out that man, as well as seven others, including an ex-husband and several other clients.
The defense also argued that some evidence in the case was lost or missing.
Jones' lawyers acknowledged he gave investigators conflicting statements, first denying he knew Birgfeld and later saying he had paid her for a massage. His attorneys said Jones was trying to hide his behavior from his wife.
Birgfeld's car was found on fire in a parking lot near Jones' workplace three days after she disappeared. Her remains were not found until 2012, partially buried in a western Colorado gully.
Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com