GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (CBS4) – The defense called an expert witness to the stand in the Paige Birgfeld murder trial on Thursday to punch holes in the prosecution’s case against Lester Jones.
Jones was arrested in November 2014 for the June 2007 murder of Birgfeld.
Authorities allege he killed Birgfeld, dumped her body and torched her car. He has been charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and arson.
Medical professionals have testified earlier in the trial that they couldn’t tell for sure how Birgfeld died. Her skeletal remains were found in 2012, in a dry creek bed in neighboring Delta County county.
Former homicide detective and expert witness Natasha Powers took the stand on Thursday. She testified that investigators with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office did not conduct an objective investigation.
When asked by the defense attorney, “With the initial investigation shoddy at best, interviews missing, documented interviews missing, all the follow up audio gone… in your opinion, does it matter?” Powers replied, “It all matters. The truth is, if you don’t know what you don’t have to maintain integrity, it becomes infected.”
Investigators say Birgfeld, twice divorced and living in Grand Junction about 200 miles west of Denver, led a double life as a paid escort with many unsavory clients.
Jones was arrested after detectives questioned — and ruled out — at least eight other men, including Birgfeld’s former husband and several other clients. Witnesses said one of those clients had an “arsenal of guns and a pile of cocaine.”
Powers testified that she reviewed the entire case file and that there were major missteps. She said with the investigators focusing so much attention on Jones, they missed the potential to investigate other suspects.
“All of the police reporting, and the efforts made by police, which are contained in the police reports; centered around — very heavily — around Mr. Jones,” Powers said. “With the initial lead investigator it was shoddy at best.”
The defense has presented five other men they claim could have killed Birgfeld.
Closing arguments in the case are expected Friday.