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tv   2020  ABC  September 9, 2016 8:00pm-9:00pm MST

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tonight on "20/20," the two-hour season premiere. >> how close did you come to dying? >> diane sawyer, elizabeth vargas, the interview. >> the lethal blood alcohol level and that's when you're in the beth spin. >> the drinking sheep until it almost cost her her career, her family, her life. tonight, from hitting rock bottom to hitting every day for hope. >> i would die for my children but i couldn't stop drinking for my children. >> but first, the results of a ten-year murder investigation breaking just now. >> please rise for our jury. >> the courtroom showdown. >> who is your daughter?
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birgfeld, not was. >> a father with a daughter who lived a single life. >> she is one more single mom trying to find out a way to make ends meet. >> a devoted soccer mom by day and something else by night. >> did you give her reasons she should quit? >> yeah, she could get killed for one. >> so who did it? >> does it make you nervous? >> no. >> there's not a lot of people around. >> tonight, the "20/20" investigation, piecing it all together. >> trying to find a needle in a hay stack. >> it was. but we found a lot of needles. >> we have a major break in the murder of a colorado mother. >> a white truck that haunted her. >> she was extremely scared. >> paige's burned out car. >> the dog smelled a dead body in the back of the car. >> a dead body. >> and dozens of calls from men the last night. >> this is jason.
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>> i have lied about a lot of things to protect me. >> tonight, is someone now going to pay? >> do you think he killed paige birgfeld? >> the season premiere of "20/20" starts now. >> good evening. i'm david muir, and right here tonight, the personal and for many life threatens struggle faced by many americans at home tonight. anxiety and addiction. my friend and colleague elizabeth vargas is going to drively share her remarkable journey. diane sawyer asking elizabeth the ditch cult questions and elizabeth with the candid answers here tonight. first, the breaking story. the disappearance of a devoted soccer mom who it turns out was leading a double life. it's a case that "20/20" has been investigating from the beginning. here's ryan smith.
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western slope, home to these breathtaking mesas, and a pleasure center for adventurers. a place where it's easy to get lost, and hard to be found. >> hi, mom, i was just wondering where you are going to be home? >> reporter: thursday, june 28th, 2007. 8-year-old jess dixon picks up the phone and calls her mom, paige birgfeld. >> hey, mom, you are really, you said you would be back before dark and you haven't even been back. >> reporter: jess is worried. it's getting late and the 34-year-old single mother of three hasn't come home. >> please, please, please call someone. >> reporter: by friday morning, even more worry. paige's father, frank, can't reach his daughter either. >> give me a call on my cell phone. this is dad, bye. >> reporter: all of the calls going straight to voicemail. >> this is carol.
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>> reporter: close friend and babysitter carol linderholm remembers becoming increasingly concerned. >> at first i thought, well, she's probably really busy, and then i kept calling her and there was no response. >> where the heck are you? >> reporter: by saturday, it's a full panic. a family friend walks daughter jess, the oldest of three, into the mesa county sheriff's department to file a missing persons report. >> it was a mom. somebody that you know wouldn't just abandon her kids. >> reporter: stan hilkey was the sheriff at the time of paige's disappearance. real loving mother, reported to be a great mom who, you know, did a lot of activities with the kids. was very loving. >> she was always creating costumes for the kids, and she taught a dance class for little toddlers. everything was centered around the children. >> reporter: so the kids were really attached to paige? >> oh, very much so. >> reporter: saturday afternoon, frank birgfeld gets the official word from police -- his
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big problem. this is not someone who just wouldn't come home. this is a problem. there is a crime being committed here." >> reporter: frank says he doesn't waste a minute. he jumps into his car and drives 200 miles from denver to grand junction. paige's brother, craig, says his father is inconsolable. >> when my dad called me to tell that paige was missing, that's the first time i ever heard him cry since i was little kid. >> reporter: saturday evening, frank birgfeld finally arrives in grand junction. >> we searched the house. we searched the property. by 9:30 they had a bloodhound on the ground trying to see whether there was a trail leading away from the house. >> reporter: then, sunday night, a disturbing development. >> 911, what is your emergency? >> hi, i'm at the corner of 23 and logos, and there is a car on fire in the parking lot. >> reporter: paige's red ford
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parking lot two miles from her home. >> do you see flames or smoke? >> yeah, there's -- there's a lot of flames, but there is nobody around that i can see. >> reporter: by the time firefighters arrive, they are able to salvage little -- the four-door sedan was vandalized, the fire ruled arson. most importantly -- paige is nowhere to be found. >> arson is an efficient way to cover up evidence. and you know, it burned a lot of things in the car that w been very useful to us. >> reporter: so for you, immediately, this is somebody trying to cover their tracks. >> it's what you sort of have to think. >> reporter: cops on the scene notice something odd. the front seat on the driver's side is pushed all the way back. so they ask one of their own, a woman paige's height, to try and touch the pedals. when she can't, they realize someone else must have been driving. plus, there's this -- paige's daily planner. it survives the blaze, almost
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over it, keeping it intact. but when police take a closer look, someone has ripped out four days of pages. >> they found the dates, 26, 27, 28, 29, had been torn out. tells me somebody thought those days were incriminating. >> reporter: suddenly, the missing person's case is beginning to look more like a kidnapping. >> this isn't a situation where paige left on her own volition. >> reporter: frank birgfeld goes to the reality begins to sink in. >> you know, it occurred to me, i haven't cried in a long time. i've learned how to do that. that's it. >> reporter: the family prays, waits, and worries. but paige's mom, suzie, never gives up hope. >> i hope that she's safe. we want her to come home for her children and her family. >> reporter: she wonders who would want to hurt her daughter?
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hair, just 34 years old. >> she'd enter a room and people turn heads. >> reporter: tell me about the time you first met? >> i drove up to her house, knocked on the door, she opened the door and i said, "oh, my gosh," i said, "you're so beautiful." [ laughter ] >> and she says so sweetly, "i haven't been told that in so long." >> reporter: but linderholm soon learns there's trouble lurking behind paige's fa?ade. the soccer mom with the model looks is twice divorced. she is struggling emotionally and financially after her second marriage crumbles. >> paige had definitely fallen on hard times. >> reporter: journalist carol mckinley is following the case for "20/20." >> she's suddenly broke but she's used to living the high life. according to her friends, her ex-husband isn't helping pay the bills. >> things happened. they got divorced. she ended up with the house, and
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ordinary home. >> at one point, paige is paying a staggering $6,000 a month for the million home. >> reporter: so paige starts taking on odd jobs to pay her mounting bills. all these crazy jobs. >> she's selling cooking products for a company called pampered chef, selling baby slings -- she's even teaching children dance classes. >> reporter: and suddenly her three small children have no idea if they'll ever see mom alive again. as soon as paige's car is discovered abandoned in that parking lot, the search parties assemble. back in 2007, "20/20" accompanied frank and more than 200 volunteers flank out in fields just south of grand junction, looking for any sign of paige in the scorching colorado heat. >> today we have searchers out all over an area that's in proximity to where her car was burned that was involved in this case. >> reporter: sounds like you were searching every inch of mesa?
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county. it's 3300 miles of a lot of frontier country. i wouldn't say we searched all of it, but we did search a lot of it. >> reporter: when we come back, frank birgfeld expands his search, desperate for any clue that might lead to his daughter's recovery. >> she's out there somewhere, and i can't protect her. >> reporter: while investigators begin to wonder if paige's complicated love life with two ex-husbands has something to do with her disappearance. >> where is your emergency? >> my husband and i were in a fight. >> repte next. hey get even better. that's why more people stick with humana medicare advantage. we work together with you to find the best plan, however your needs might change. because great things are ahead of you when your health is ready for them. humana medicare advantage.
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s in my life. so when my asthma symptoms kept coming back on my long-term control medicine. i talked to my doctor and found a missing piece in my asthma treatment with breo. once-daily breo prevents asthma symptoms. breo is for adults with asthma not well controlled on a long-term asthma control medicine, like an inhaled corticosteroid. breo won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. breo opens up airways to help improve breathing for a full 24 hours. breo contains a type of medicine that increases the risk of death from asthma problems and may increase the risk of hospitalization in breo is not for people whose asthma is well controlled on a long-term asthma control medicine, like an inhaled corticosteroid. once your asthma is well controlled, your doctor will decide if you can stop breo and prescribe a different asthma control medicine, like an inhaled corticosteroid. do not take breo more than prescribed. see your doctor if your asthma does not improve or gets worse. ask your doctor if 24-hour breo could be a missing piece for you. see if you're eligible for
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>> i mean, this is big country here. >> reporter: 24 days after paige birgfeld vanishes without a trace -- >> we look along the bank, look in the middle, look in a snag. >> reporter: -- her father, frank, moves his search to this vast canvas, the winding colorado river. >> i don't know when you give up. i don't know.
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>> reporter: weeks turn into months as investigators and volunteer searchers paddle through murky waters and trudge through desert scrub brush, but connie flukey says there is no sign of paige. how daunting was this search? >> this was one of the hardest searches that i personally have been on. >> reporter: like trying to find a needle in a haystack. >> it was, but we found a lot of needles. >> reporter: perhaps the biggest of sources. a motorist got a flat tire and pulled along the side of this road to fix it, and then saw something strange -- paige's checkbook. soon, investigators saw paige's personal checks, business cards, and other personal items dropped all along this road. how important was that trail of breadcrumbs left along highway 50 for your search? >> i think it was very important for the case, and i think it was very important for the family too, just to know she was brought to that area. >> reporter: but, who abducted paige birgfeld?
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missing, it's only a matter of time before the police zero in on the ex. in paige's case, she had two. starting with ron beigler. journalist carol mckinley says the two were teenage sweethearts. >> paige did have big dreams out of high school. she went to florida to go to school, wanted to be a midwife. but ron beigler followed her out there. her grades start failing and she drops out. >> reporter: ron and paige move back to colorado. they have a huge wedding s a peak over looking the denver skyline, but their youthful rush to the altar ends as quickly as it starts. >> early on paige made it very clear to ron she wanted children. she adored children. but ron wanted no part of that. it turned out to be a deal breaker. her friends say she got a divorce after just two years. >> reporter: in the wake of that divorce, she meets rob dixon, an emergency medical technician who friends say really didn't need to work because he came from a wealthy family. >> her in-laws, the dixons, were loaded.
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on early technology with cell phones. >> reporter: that family fortune lined their son rob's pockets for years. >> he loved spending his daddy's money. he had six sports cars. >> reporter: in a town full of pick up trucks, rob dixon is driving a bright yellow ferrari. >> that definitely got everyone's attention. she was being showered with gifts. there were bracelets, a $12,000 necklace. >> reporter: rob pops the question with an $85,000 engagement ring. the newlyweds start a family first, there's daughter jess, followed by two adorable boys -- taft and trigger. >> i'm 6 1/2 and my big sister is 8 1/2. and my baby brother is 3 1/2. >> they appear to be the perfect family. they have beautiful children in the expensive home, they're living a champagne life in what's really a six pack town.
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then the bottom falls out. >> reporter: paige's dad says dixon makes a series of bad investments, and those bad investments lead to some bad blood. >> i think as rob's wealth kind of toppled, i think he came under more and more pressure, and it bled out into the relationship. >> reporter: then one night in 2004, this -- >> where is your emergency? >> my husband and i were in a fight, and he was supposed to watch my children while i went to work. and he said that i would come home and find them all murdered. >> reporter:o filed against dixon that year. but 12 months later he is charged with assault -- slapping and punching paige. later that year, the couple divorce. >> she had some scary times, but she got out of them. >> reporter: paige's friends barbara campbell, rina stockmeyer and andrea land spoke to "20/20's" john quinones in 2007. >> lately, she was very concerned about him being around the kids.
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wasn't a healthy situation. >> reporter: then in march 2007, paige writes this bone-chilling blog -- "my children would ask me if dad was going to kill me. i can't imagine what life would be like for them after he killed me." >> the first person you thought might have done this? >> rob was the first person that came to mind. >> my immediate thought honestly was rob dixon. >> reporter: to investigators, that all sounds like homicide 101 -- a roadmap leading right to rob except dixon has an airtight alibi the night paige disappears. his cell phone records indicate he's 2,000 miles away at his new home in philadelphia the night paige goes missing. >> it quickly scratches dixon off the list. he's effectively alibied because he's on the east coast. but then investigators turn their their eyes paige's first husband who lives four hours away in aurora, colorado. >> reporter: and here's why -- it turns out that paige had rekindled her romance with her
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vanishes, having a picnic at this park in eagle, colorado. >> it wasn't anything that was out of the ordinary. or special. we just decided to meet that day. eagle was the halfway point for both of us. so we left at the same time and arrived back in our towns at approximately the same time. she called me to make sure i made it back into denver and that's the last i ever heard from her. >> i need to talk to you about a missing person emergency. >> reporter: two days later, beigler calls 911 to report his ex-wife missing. >> she is definitely missing because she would never leave her children. >> reporter: her first husband, ron. she was with him that day. she leaves him. he's the last person to see her. but he was ruled out pretty quickly? >> effectively alibied by cell phone, et cetera. >> reporter: former district attorney pete hautziner says like dixon, beigler has an alibi, too. cell phone records place biegler four hours away in denver the night paige disappears, making it impossible for him to be in grand junction. so if it wasn't either of
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it in for paige? >> a major complication in the case was the fact that there's such a large number of alternative suspects who have to be eliminated by virtue of what she did for a living. >> reporter: when we come back, the secret life of the soccer mom exposed. was it just massages or was it something more? the baby-sitter's revelation about why paige birgfeld may have been in harm's way with dozens of men. >> it was after hours. and as she was getting ready to leave, she sees this up. she just wanted out of there. she was extremely scared. >> reporter: see what happens next. they travel a lot. every four years when we got re-stationed you think it's going to be the biggest change in your life but there's always more changes to come. the first thing that we would do when we would get into our new place was set up the beds. and when i go to t.j.maxx i buy good quality things that are going to last a long time. everything i get there, i get at a lower price. shopping at t.j.maxx is always like a bonding experience. discover real value worth sharing.
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before fibromyalgia, i was active. i was energetic. then the chronic, widespread pain drained my energy. my doctor said moving more helps ease fibromyalgia pain. he also prescribed lyrica. fibromyalgia is thought to be the result of overactive nerves. lyrica is believed to calm these nerves. for some, lyrica can significantly relieve fibromyalgia pain and improve function, lyrica may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. tell your doctor right away if you have these, new or worsening depression, or unusual changes in mood or behavior. or swelling, trouble breathing, rash, hives, blisters, muscle pain with fever, tired feeling, or blurry vision. common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain and swelling of hands, legs and feet. don't drink alcohol while taking lyrica. don't drive or use machinery until you know how lyrica affects you. those who have had a drug or alcohol problem
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i can be more active. ask your doctor about lyrica. i'm hillary clinton and i approve this message. donald trump: i could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody and i wouldn't lose any voters, okay? and you can tell them to go f--- themselves! you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever... you gotta see this guy. ahh, i don't know what i said, ahh. "i don't remember."
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>> reporter: nightfall in grand junction, as shadows grow long beneath the cliffs of the western rockies, secrets have easy hiding places. friend and part-time baby sitter carol linderholm recalls the night when 34-year-old paige birgfeld had a date with
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somebody at her office. the building was closed, it was after hours, and she'd see this white truck. she eventually closed her office, went down stairs to her car. and as she was getting ready to leave, she sees the truck pull up. she just wanted out of there. and the white pickup took off. >> was she shaken by this? >> she was extremely scared. she told me about it and she says, "i've never been so scared in my life." >> reporter: in the light of day, paige's office, where she was selling pampered chef cookware was located in this non-discript cluster of commercial office spaces. but after hours, paige reveals to only a few close friends it was also a front for "pampering" a much different brand, a side-business she was running named "models, inc." what did she do? >> bachelor parties.
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identity is still a touchy subject for those with whom she shared this dirty little secret, as we found when talking to some of them in 2007. >> she was learning to give massages. but, you know, lots of people give massages. so, i knew she was doing a little extra on the side but it fit perfectly. >> reporter: the little "extra" was that paige, for the right price, would perform those massages topless. surprisingly, even her ex ron beigler it a rubber stamp. >> average call was $450. there was no sexual touching. no sexual contact. no intercourse. that kind of thing, she charged more for each little thing that came off. >> reporter: in fact, she had this ad in the local paper, calling herself, "carrie, "and even posting a picture on a website called "naughty nightlife." former district attorney pete hautzinger put it this way. >> i can't really say i ever knew exactly what specific
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it was clearly an adult escort service. it was clearly highly unusual for western colorado. >> reporter: in her profile, paige seemed pretty adept at double-entendre, boasting, "tired of chopped meat showing up when you ordered filet mignon?" >> she didn't tell you about this other life she was leading? >> reporter: "2020's" john quinones first spoke to paige's family in 2007. >> mm-hmm, i think she realized that we would not approve and actually now that i know about it, i think she was trying to keep the house and the kids together. >> it's not exactly what a brother likes to hear his little sister is doing. i'm continually having to talk about things that if i heard people talking about them in the locker room after a football game, i'd beat the crap out of the guys. but it was part of her life. and, like it or not, that's the way she chose to provide for her kids.
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roommate jaime silvernail says that was the only conceivable reason the otherwise wholesome single mom of three would moon light as a sexy masseuse. >> she felt like it's something she needed to do to be able to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table. >> she needed the money? >> yeah, yeah. she's one more single mom out there trying to figure out a way to make ends means without suffering. >> reporter: it wasn't until after paige's disappearance that the shocking news of her side business came to light. when it did, it spread like a wildfire across a dry colorado mesa. >> investigators say she was a mom who led a secret double life. >> running her own escort service. >> reporter: paige now had the proverbial scarlet letter on her chest. >> when it came out that she ran an escort service it dwindled down to practically nothing. nobody cared anymore because she was that "sort of woman." >> reporter: but investigators care, and they learn the night paige birgfeld disappears, she receives dozens of calls from men seeking her services. >> yes, this is buddy. i was wondering if you had any
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>> hey, this is jim. i'm going to go get me a motel room now. >> hello, my name is bill. just calling to see if anybody's still available for the night. >> a major complication in the case was the fact that there's such a large number of alternative suspects. >> reporter: which brings us back to that office parking lot, the spot where paige ran models, inc. and, a burning question, "who was that man in the white who frightened paige birgfeld that night?" >> uh, what are you driving right now? >> uh, my, a dodge pickup. >> okay. >> it's a white dodge pickup. >> white? >> is this the right man? >> reporter: police have a sneaking suspicion. but "is this the right man?" when we come back -- big breaks in the case -- a confrontation. >> i banged on that door and i said, "i know what you did to paige." >> reporter: a discovery in a canyon -- >> many searchers had been up that gulch right in that area. >> reporter: but will it lead to a confession? >> i did not kill her.
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>> some people do believe that search for paige stalled after what some people found what she did for a living was discovered. we want your opinion tonight. let us know on facebook or twitter. use #2020. stay tuned. the big break. zeroing in on a suspect. ut of a? your daughter was teaching the dog to roll over. wow, she really committed to the part. oh, oh, oh, oh... (dax) i hope that's mud. one more. forgot these. bingo. we should really just live outdoors. (dax) i'm down...
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>> reporter: mesa county, colorado. investigators looking into the disappearance of paige birgfeld have little to go on. all that's come to light is a burned out ford focus, a monthly planner with missing pages, and the clues strewn like breadcrumbs along a desolate colorado highway. the escort missing mom who called herself "carrie" had dozens of clients, and now one of them is called in for questioning. >> and you are, um -- mr. johnson, right? >> jones. >> jones. you know what? that's funny. sorry about that. okay. >> reporter: he's 55-year old
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mechanic who's married, with a rap sheet as long as a winnebago. >> i'm guessing you can probably guess as to what we're investigating? >> he just said he's investigating the disappearance of a young lady, so. >> reporter: without a lawyer present, homicide detective lissah norcross questions jones about the proximity of the garage where he works and the spot where paige's scorched sedan is recovered. >> does it make you nervous that we may think you did something? >> no. >> it should. [ laughter ] okay? it should. >> reporter: turns out, paige and jones had once been much closer. investigators discover jones had hired her for a pricey $400 erotic massage a year earlier. >> and what are you wearing? >> um, i had nothing on. >> okay, and her? >> she had nothing on. >> okay. >> we did not have sex. >> okay. >> she tells me up front she
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out jones is one of several men feverishly calling paige in the days before she disappears. >> lester jones was calling and calling her. >> reporter: carol linderholm tells investigators jones made another appointment with paige the day before she went missing. this time paige is worried that jones has figured out her true identity. so she sends carol on the call instead. what was your first impression when you walked in the door? >> fear. [ laughter ] >> reporter: really? >> yeah, he's a very large overpowering person. >> reporter: what's the first thing he said to you? >> "i want sex." i looked at him and i said, "then you should probably call another escort service, 'cause it's not gonna happen with me." that's not what i'm here for. >> reporter: no sex, but lots of talk. and the topic? paige birgfeld. >> reporter: carol says he seems obsessed with paige. and sure enough, he tells her he recognizes paige as the once
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>> you knew when you saw her the first time that she was rob dixon's ex-wife. >> yeah. i knew that. >> reporter: during 2 1/2 hours of questioning, jones cooperates fully, letting them take his fingerprints, giving them his dna, and handing over the keys to his truck. >> what are you driving right now? >> it's a white dodge pickup. >> white? >> reporter: a white pickup. could it be the same white pickup that frightened paige that night outside her office? the no-nonsense detective norcross puts the screws to the rv mechanic. >> do you know where she is? >> no. >> do you know what happened to her? >> no. >> now, i have to be convinced of that. >> i can't convince you of it. i -- i don't know what happened to her. i don't. >> reporter: before she disappeared, paige had gotten five calls from a mystery man calling from a disposable tracfone. jones denies it was him. he tells investigators he
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>> did you buy a tracfone? >> no, sir. >> never bought a tracfone? >> never. >> reporter: cops search his home and scour the mechanic's workspace at the rv shop in grand junction. they find viagra, condoms, a black victoria's secret bra, and under his desk, a gasoline can. >> now, you may think, "well, maybe he used the gas can. it's rv repair. maybe they had a gas can." no. police question the owners and co-workers and there was no at his workspace. do you have a gas can at your workspace? because i don't. >> reporter: but the most compelling evidence -- in the trash. packaging for a disposable tracfone, just like the one jones swears he doesn't own. >> for me personally, that tracfone is the single most compelling piece of evidence that he has never attempted to explain away.
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wal-mart. security cameras pick up a man that looks a lot like lester jones purchasing it. >> i don't buy no tracfone at walmart. >> no, sir. >> yes, sir. >> no, sir. >> um, "nope. not me." i'd submit anybody who looks at that video knows it's him. that's pretty compelling. >> reporter: desperate for more direct evidence, detectives fly in trained dogs to search k-9 handler julie jones shows us, with a different dog, how she says they found the scent of death. so the dog smelled a dead body in the back seat. >> yeah. a dead body in the back seat. >> reporter: a dead body in the back seat. and in the front seat, the one pushed way back? the handler says, the smell of a man. who else did the dog find in this car? >> he was given the scent of lester jones and he found the scent of lester jones in the
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>> reporter: 6'4", 275 pound lester jones. but many question the science of dog scent evidence. >> problem with the dog? you can't cross-examine him. >> reporter: and the rest of the case against jones is circumstantial. without paige's body, hautzinger is still reluctant to prosecute. >> we were all sure she was dead. we were sure she was murdered. but i was unwilling to file charges until i actually had a fact deceased. >> reporter: the case went cold until an afternoon in march of 2012. a hiker hiking not far from the highway, just a short distance from where paige's personal items were found, made an astonishing discovery. down in this gulch, in a dry streambed, amid all of these rocks and weeds and brush, were human remains, the daughter that frank and suzie had been searching for, for five long years. >> there's no soft tissue left. all she is, is a skeleton. >> reporter: unfortunately the
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her death. one clue that it was violent -- duct tape wrapped around the skull. >> sheriff's office arrested lester jones in connection with paige birgfeld's death. >> reporter: you feel 100% confident that lester jones is the man that killed paige? >> i am totally confident of that in my own soul as the person who made the decision to file the charges. >> reporter: next, the trial of lester jones, the man charged with paige birgfeld's murder. and the men defense attorneys say should be. few of the real killers in this case. >> i have lied about a lot of things to protect me. >> i would have put her in a wood chipper. >> this is john at motel 6. just wondering if you're coming out. >> is that your voice, sir? >> yes. >> okay. does 10:24 pm sound the right time you made the call? >> yes. >> reporter: see what happens
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>> reporter: getting to the mesa county justice center is easy, go to grand junction, can't miss it. but getting justice for murdered soccer mom paige birgfeld? much harder. it has taken nearly a decade. finally, just weeks ago, her
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court. there he is, lester jones. >> tid, a man accused of murdering a single mother is set to take place in grand junction. >> lester jones is charged with kidnapping paige birgfeld. >> man, it's like a dagger. >> reporter: for three weeks, the witness chair gets a workout. the prosecution calling 80 people to the stand. investigators and experts, dentists and former call girls, hikers and dog handlers. >> what was your understanding where he was? >> reporter: the prosecution theory? sometime after 8:57 p.m. -- the time of the last known call from her cell phone -- jones kidnaps and kills paige, then uses her own car to dispose of her body in that gulch down highway 50. a few nights later, telling his wife he has to go out. >> where did he say he was going? >> back to the shop. he thought he left the lights on that morning and wanted to get
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believe, instead, he takes that opportunity to burn paige's car, incinerating any evidence of his crime. in his police interview, jones himself conceding things don't look good. >> i have no alibi for the whole week and i called multiple times. >> reporter: prosecutors close their case with a star witness, jones' ex-wife, lisa nance. >> he said i'm going to kill you, and he just slapped me repeatedly. i could taste blood. i grabbed his hand. i asked him to stop. >> reporter: nance says in the late '90s when their marriage was ending, jones kidnapped her at gunpoint and threatened to kill her. >> he said he was going to put me in the bottom of the lake where no one would find me. >> reporter: she escaped, and jones served five years in prison. but then lester jones' defense attorneys get their turn. they argue jones is the wrong man and proceed to present a parade of alternate suspects.
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>> i did call some services back then and dumb, but i did. >> reporter: a ranch hand waiting for paige at motel 6 the night she disappeared. >> this is john at motel 6, room 237. i was just checking to see if i have something coming out or not. >> you were calling a company called models inc that day, june 28th. >> right. >> showed up. >> do you have anything to do with disappearance of paige birgfeld? >> no. >> have anything to do the murder of paige birgfeld? >> no. >> reporter: then, there's wayne d'amico, a car salesman and another of paige's clients. >> at some point set up a time and we hung out together on a professional basis. >> did you pay her money? >> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: he admits he joked about disposing of her body. >> i said if i had something to do with it, i would have put her
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believe me, if i could turn that page back now, i would take it back. >> reporter: but the woman who heard him say it, a former 'call-girl,' kristy steves, was worried enough to call the police. >> i was under the influence of drugs but i believed him. i really did. >> reporter: if anyone had a motive, defense attorneys say, it was steven heald. >> there's actually no reason for me to want her dead. >> reporter: the construction manager, who embezzled $17,000 of his company's money supposedly buying pampered chef products from paige. >> she created an invoice. i'd paid the invoice. the invoice would say "pampered chef," or some other type of work, but it was for sex. >> reporter: heald first tells detectives paige was blackmailing him to hide their relationship, but then changes his story. >> that's the dumbest thing i ever said. she never blackmailed me. our relationship was mutual. >> reporter: but heald has an alibi for the night paige disappeared. his ex-wife says for once, he
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>> you had every reason to throw him under the bus wouldn't you say? >> yes, and i would have. >> reporter: but if anyone might give this jury reasonable doubt, defense attorneys say it is this man, another client, george coralluzzo. a painter with a colorful past. theft, burglary, dui and kidnapping. phone records show in the hours before paige goes missing, something like 20 times trying to set up a massage date. >> it boiled down to lester jones or coralluzzo and i was the stick in the mud, frankly saying, "yeah, i think we have a case against lester jones. but i'm not convinced that we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt until coralluzzo has been effectively eliminated. >> reporter: two days after paige disappears, an acquaintance of george coralluzzo, meghan williams, says he came to
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his family had been killed in a car crash, which was a lie. was he acting like someone who did something very bad and was trying to get away? >> he was emotional. he was sad. he was frantic. he was just like, you know, "i gotta do things. i gotta go. i gotta go. i can't be here. >> do you think he killed paige birgfeld? >> i do think he killed paige birgfeld. and i have stuck with that since day one. >> reporter: but prosecutors say coralluzzo was thoroughly investigated and eliminated as the killer. coralluzzo can't testify because he drowned in a new jersey river in 2011. which brings us back to the case against lester jones and two final bizarre pieces of the puzzle. soon after police interrogated him, jones attempts suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. coincidentally, he gets a call from detectives soon afterward, they're simply trying to arrange the return of his now notorious white pickup. >> mr. jones, this is art smith with the sheriff's office. >> reporter: but a groggy jones makes a bizarre statement.
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>> i'm sorry? >> you asked me where i should bury a body? >> when did i ask you that? >> reporter: does that sound like some sort of accidental confession? what will the jury make of it? >> please rise for the jury. >> reporter: when we come back, a courtroom stunner. the bombshell dropped in court just hours ago. thank you. my advice for looking younger, longer? try not to take things personally. all right. thank you pam. don't let the little things get to you. get your beauty sleep. and use aveeno? absolutely ageless? night cream. with active naturals? blackberry complex. you'll wake up to younger looking skin in just one week. younger looking skin can start today. absolutely ageless?. aveeno?. naturally beautiful results?
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>> reporter: frank and suzie birgfeld spent their summer here at the mesa county courthouse to bear witness to the prosecution of lester jones. he's the man they believe murdered their daughter paige back in 2007. it's been nine long years, for you to get to this place. that courthouse right there? >> man, you know what, it -- it's like we're on a merry-go-round. except the merry-go-round doesn't stop. >> reporter: the prosecution's closing argument -- reminding the jury of that young mother, kidnapped, thrown in the back of her car, taken off to be murdered. >> paige must have been so scared. it is hard to even imagine what would have been going through her head as she was laying either in the back of her
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>> reporter: when it's their turn, attorneys for lester jones say there was a virus in the investigation. >> they screwed up this investigation from the get go. let's talk about who's the real killer. >> reporter: one week ago tonight, the judge sends the 12 jurors, nine men and three women, off to deliberate. >> it's not an easy case. it's not a simple case, and just one juror could derail a conviction for prosecutors. >> reporter: and sure enough, just hours ago, the case that confounded the nation for almost a decade stymied this jury too. >> we are unable to come to a unanimous decision. >> reporter: the judge declaring a mistrial. afterwards, the jurors spoke, revealing nine of them thought he was guilty, but there were three holdouts. >> nobody in their mind thought that there was -- that he didn't do something wrong. that he committed this crime. it's the fact that there was not enough evidence for them to get
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lester jones is still locked up, prosecutors vowing they will try him again. as for paige's father, frank birgfeld, we accompanied him on one last trip down a dusty dirt road to the desolate gulch where his daughter's body was discovered. >> we all think we're going to live to 100. and, then you get a phone call like i did. >> reporter: it's now a makeshift memorial, where a grieving father waits and wonders if he can ever find justice. >> you know, i hear this term closure, and i'm not exactly sure what that is. it's not like we turn the switch off and she's out of our lives. >> a family still grieving tonight. and of course, they'll stay on the case. and now, a very personal turn here. tonight, my friend and colleague elizabeth vargas about to share
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struggle, her life thetenning battle and why she is talking to diane sawyer, hoping her story helps millions. one hour starts now. how close did you come to dying? >> diane sawyer and elizabeth vargas on the addiction that almost cost her everything. >> i would die for my children, but i couldn't stop drinking for my children. >> her marriage to a singer. confronting the video of hitting rock bottom. the day she blacked out in a park, saved by a stranger. evidence of the dramatic link between anxiety and alcoholism. >> i really hurt my children. >> tonight, how to fight your


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