DENVER Investigators said the attractive single mom who vanished from western Colorado 4½ years ago was running an escort service, but her father is more blunt.
I think escort is kind of a polite word for prostitution, said Frank Birgfeld, whose daughters remains were found in a dry creek bed in a Colorado desert this week.
Thirty-four-year-old Paige Birgfeld was twice divorced and living with her three children in Grand Junction, about 200 miles west of Denver, when she disappeared in June 2007. Friends knew her as a devoted mom who sold kitchen products and did other jobs.
Her winning looks and apparent double life attracted widespread media attention to the mystery of her disappearance, including a 48 Hours segment called The Secret Life of Paige Birgfeld in 2008.
Frank Birgfeld, an articulate, gravel-voiced 68-year-old who lives outside Denver, remembers his daughter as buoyant and positive.
Man, she is, she was very rarely negative, he said Thursday. Always looked at things on the bright side. Had a great smile and showed it a lot. And clearly, what she liked the most was showing off her kids.
Birgfeld said he didnt know about his daughters business.
Absolutely, we werent aware of it, he said.
In retrospect, Birgfeld sees clues, including one of her ex-husbands cars, a Ford Focus, which she kept for reasons her father didnt understand.
She offered different explanations. Her name was on the loan. She couldnt sell it. It was just easier to keep it.
That was the car she was using for that purpose. I look back, its obvious, he said.
Deputies learned about Paige Birgfelds business, called Models Inc., in the course of interviewing acquaintances after she disappeared, Mesa County Sheriffs Sgt. Matt Lewis said. They didnt investigate whether the escort service was a front for prostitution.
That was not the focus of this investigation, he said. We were looking to piece together her life.
Sheriffs deputies and volunteers staged multiple searches including several in the gully in neighboring Delta County where two hikers discovered skeletal remains Tuesday.
Lewis said it appeared the body had been buried once and erosion eventually exposed it. Frank Birgfeld, who visited the site Wednesday, said he thinks his daughters body had been dumped nearby and was washed into the gully.
He said dental records confirmed the remains were his daughters. Sheriffs investigators say they are awaiting DNA tests to confirm the identity, but they believe the remains are Paige Birgfelds.
No one has been arrested. In October 2007, investigators identified Lester Ralph Jones, then 56, as a suspect.
Jones was a client of Models Inc. and remains a suspect, Lewis said. Investigators havent spoken with him since the remains were found.
Phone numbers listed for Jones were disconnected. It wasnt clear whether he had an attorney.
Frank Birgfeld, who describes himself as a person of decent morals, said the sex trade is a foreign world to him.
I cant tell you how negatively I would have responded if he had known what she was doing, he said.
But hes not interested in criticizing her now.
A reporter once asked him what he would say to Paige about her business if she stepped into the room at that moment.
If she walked in the door right now, I wouldnt say anything, Birgfeld said. I would just hug her.