GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — A man suspected of abducting and killing a Colorado single mother who led a double life as a paid escort served time in prison for two kidnapping cases involving his former wife.
Prosecutor Dan Rubenstein on Monday recounted Lester Jones’ criminal history in court in Grand Junction, arguing that the 63-year-old was a flight risk. Without objection from Jones’ public defender, a judge agreed to hold the defendant on $2 million bond in the death of Paige Birgfeld seven years ago, The Daily Sentinel reported.
Jones appeared for the court hearing via video feed from the Mesa County jail. He said nothing other than acknowledging that he had watched a video advising him of his legal rights.
Jones, who was arrested Friday, was one of the last people to call Birgfeld before her 8-year-old daughter reported her missing in June 2007. Authorities allege he killed Birgfeld, dumped her body and torched her car.
In 1999, Jones received a five-year prison term for two kidnapping cases involving Lisa Jones that year. Lester Jones first was arrested after authorities say he ran a car carrying his ex-wife and another man off the road, rammed their vehicle and fired two shots at the man. He pulled Lisa Jones out of the car, forced her into his vehicle and threatened to kill her several times as they drove, Rubenstein said.
About a month later, Lester Jones was arrested again for second-degree kidnapping to commit sexual assault and other charges after taking his ex-wife to Grand Mesa — one of the world’s largest flat-topped mountains — and threatening her, the prosecutor said.
Jones was convicted of first-degree assault in the heat of passion, attempted second-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon and violating conditions of his bond.
In the Birgfeld case, Jones emerged as the main suspect after police dogs detected Jones’ scent in the missing woman’s charred Ford Focus. An arrest affidavit says Jones was unable to explain a gas can near his desk at the RV dealership where he worked. He denied any involvement when police interviewed him early in their investigation.
Detectives also questioned — and ruled out — at least eight other men, including Birgfeld’s former husband and several other clients. Birgfeld’s skeletal remains were found in a dry creek bed in 2012.
Birgfeld was twice divorced and living with her three children in Grand Junction — about 200 miles west of Denver. Friends knew her as a devoted mother who sold kitchen wares and did other jobs.
Her apparent double life attracted widespread attention to the mystery of her disappearance, including a “48 Hours” segment in 2008.