By all accounts, 34-year old Paige Birgfeld was a devoted mother to her three young children. So when she suddenly disappeared last June, police in Grand Junction, Colorado suspected foul play.
But while police and volunteers searched for the missing mother of three, disturbing evidence of a secret life she led shifted the investigation in a totally new direction.
Did that secret life-which Paige kept hidden from her family-play a role in her disappearance?
No one loved a family gathering more than 34-year-old Paige Birgfeld. "She would literally beam, she would radiate," her father Frank tells correspondent Harold Dow. "Those were the absolute cherished times that she enjoys most."
So when their daughter Paige vanishes on June 28, 2007, Frank and his wife Suzie feared the worst. "This is a crime. There's a crime here," says Frank, who doesn't believe Paige would have just walked away and left her kids.
After Paige disappeared, her brother Dr. Craig Birgfeld, a Seattle plastic surgeon who specializes in the facial reconstruction of children, moved into Paige's Colorado home to help take care of her three kids. "Callie and I decided at that time that our role was to be there for the kids and try to take care of them, be family there for them, just help them," he explains.
Craig's wife, Callie, adds, "And I just remembered, the little girl, Jess, going 'So do you know what happened to my mom, do you know where she is?' And I was like, 'What do I say?' So I said, 'Wherever she is, she wants to be with you right now.'"
Her friends and family say Paige spent all of her free time with her children. She was a single mother; her ex-husband was living in Philadelphia. After their divorce in 2006, Paige had become the primary caregiver for their three children.
"I think as long as I can remember, what she wanted to be was a mom and she just couldn't wait to be that mom," Craig says.
So when Paige disappeared, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey was pretty convinced this mother of three would not have left on her own. "There's nothing at all that leads us to believe that she had abandoned her life or abandoned her children and gone off in that regard," Hilkey says.
Authorities started by looking at those closest to Paige. They quickly learned that Paige had not one, but two ex-husbands. Her first husband was her high school sweetheart, Ron Beigler.
According to Paige's father, Ron was her first big love. And in fact, for the past few months, the two had been dating again.
Ten years after divorcing her first husband, Paige said she was in love with him again.
And ex-husband No. 1 becomes the focus of the investigation in June 2007, when it's learned they had their last date-on the very day she disappeared-at a rest stop, a halfway point between her home in Grand Junction and his home, more than four hours away.
When she was driving back home later that night around 9 p.m., Paige called Ron from her cell phone. They spoke briefly, and Paige told him she'd call him later.
Cell phone records show that Paige was just a few miles from her home when she made that call to Ron. And that phone call was one of her last.
Paige never did call Ron back that night, so the next day, he tried calling her. "And her phone rolled over to the voice message right away, so just to indicate the phone was turned off or the battery was down," Frank explains.
On Saturday morning, two days after seeing Paige, Ron finally tried calling her at home. Paige's father, Frank, describes what Ron did next. "He actually called the house and got our granddaughter. And she was the one that told him that Paige hadn't been home since Thursday night. At that point the alarms start goin' off and he touched base with us, touched base with the sheriff's office. And things started getting in gear then."
Ironically, after Ron called authorities to report Paige missing, he became one of the first people they wanted to question since he'd been one of the last people to see her.
Although Ron was one of the last to see and speak with Paige, those who know him believe he's also one of the last who'd want to harm her. "We met with him recently, and I think he is very devoted to Paige, and very emotional that she's not here," Paige's mother, Suzie, says.
But Paige's friends were far more suspicious about her second ex-husband, Rob Dixon, the father of her three children. It turns out Paige had an explosive, troubled history with Dixon.