Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Disappearance of Paige Birgfeld

"Suspect"

In August 2007, a man reported finding an unloaded Ruger 9mm handgun less than a half-mile from the location of Paige's abandoned car. The gun was found approximately 6 inches off the road. It remained unclear if the gun was connected to the case. Investigators are still trying to trace the weapon to its owner; however, police found the location of the weapon highly suspicious.

Two months later, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office upgraded Jones' status from "person of interest" to "suspect." However, investigators remained tightlipped and would not explain the reasons for the change in his status.

Jim Kouri
Jim Kouri

According to an article published by American Journalism Review, the term "person of interest" has never been formally defined. "Many law enforcement officials now use the vague term, "person of interest," to describe people caught up in their investigations...Officially, "person of interest" means...well, nothing. No one has ever formally defined it not police, not prosecutors, not journalists." The article quotes Jim Kouri, a spokesman for the National Association of Chiefs of Police. According to Kouri, "person of interest" is a euphemism police use for a "suspect" in order to get the person to talk to them without the formality of Miranda warnings. As Kouri says, "You don't want the guy to lawyer-up. It's the legal counsel telling police chiefs that they should instruct their officers and train them to use that term."

Based on these definitions of the terms, it would appear there are few pleasantries being exchanged between Jones and the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, prompting Jones' promotion from "person of interest" to "suspect."

Regardless of his current title, police have yet to release details of Jones' relationship with Paige or why he is being considered a suspect. As of this writing Paige's disappearance remains a mystery.

Paige was last seen in a blue tube top and blue jeans, driving her 2005 Ford Focus. She is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 110 pounds. She has sandy blond hair and hazel eyes. Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to call the Mesa County Sheriff's Office at (970) 244-3500.

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