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Remains of missing Platte Canyon student identified

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The death of 17-year-old Maggie Long has been classified as a homicide

By Sal Christ

OTHER STORIES:
BOLO issued for suspect in Maggie Long case:
 http://www.canyoncourier.com/content/bolo-issued-suspect-maggie-long-case

Platte Canyon student reported missing: http://www.canyoncourier.com/content/platte-canyon-high-school-senior-re...

The remains of missing 17-year old Platte Canyon High School student Maggie Long have been positively identified after being found at her family’s home in Bailey late last week while law enforcement officials investigated an arson at the home.

Long was reported missing Friday evening after she failed to show up for a concert she helped organize at Platte Canyon High School. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.

In a statement Thursday morning, Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said a task force comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies has been formed “for the sole purpose of bringing any individual involved in the Maggie Long homicide to justice.”

Wegener later said in an interview Thursday afternoon that the Park County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and multiple federal agencies were among those on the task force. He declined to specify why Park County Undersheriff Dave Wohlers previously told multiple news outlets that no body was found at the scene, stating only that there was “an investigative reason” for the discrepancy

Wegener also declined to answer questions about whether law enforcement has identified any persons of interest or suspects in the case, but said the department still feels there is no immediate risk to the community.

Long’s death is the first homicide, excluding officer-involved shootings, in the area since the shooting at Platte Canyon High School in 2006. Emily Keyes, a student at Platte Canyon High School, was killed.

While the sheriff's office declined to comment further on the investigation, the department has asked the public to reach out about any suspicious vehicles, individuals or activities along County Road 43 in Bailey on Dec. 1.

Platte Canyon Superintendent Brenda Krage said in an e-mail to parents that the school district would offer grief support and counseling to all students and staff in the Platte Canyon school district, and highlighted Long’s contributions to the community.

“Maggie Long was a vibrant young student leader whose absence will be ever present,” she wrote. “To say that she will be greatly missed is an understatement. Our heartfelt prayers are with the Long family during this difficult time.”

Krage also directed community members to online grief support resources posted on the district's website.

In response to the news of Long’s death, Platte Canyon cancelled the boys and girls basketball games that were scheduled for Thursday night. Also, a baseball team meeting scheduled for Friday was postponed.

Additionally, officials at both Conifer High School and Evergreen High School said that counseling resources would available for students and staff starting Friday morning.

Timeline of the events
Thursday's announcement came after nearly a week of uncertainty regarding Long's disappearance.

After she was reported missing Dec. 1, social media posts suggested there was a fire at or near her home off County Road 43 — a detail which Wohlers confirmed Saturday morning. At the time, Wohlers said the sheriff’s office was investigating the fire, but couldn’t say whether Long’s disappearance and the fire were connected. He told multiple media outlets that no body was found at the scene of the fire.

At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Wegener confirmed that the department was investigating the crime scene as arson, but declined to say whether the investigation was connected to Long’s disappearance. While Wegener also declined to specify whether a body had been found, he said both the CBI and the district attorney’s office were involved in the investigation and expected to be able to release more information Sunday morning.

However, the sheriff’s office stated in a Facebook post Sunday morning that, “Due to the serious nature of this investigation, we ask that you keep the Long family in your prayers. We are not able to release further information at this time.”

In a second post Sunday evening, the sheriff’s office confirmed again that it was investigating the fire as arson, but didn’t believe the public was at risk. The department continued to evade questions about Long's whereabouts and whether or not she was alive, as well as why the department was slow to release information about developments in the case.

On Monday morning, a Park County judge issued a gag order in the investigation into Long's disappearance and the arson at her home, barring anyone involved with the investigation from speaking publicly about the case.

Jon Sarche, public information officer for the Colorado Judicial Department, confirmed Thursday afternoon that the gag order has since been lifted. However, he said all documents in the case have been sealed by the court.

The Park County Sheriff's Office has asked that anyone with information related to the death of Maggie Long, including observations of suspicious vehicles, individuals, or activities along County Road 43 in Bailey on Dec. 1, to call the investigative tip line at 303-239-4243.

This is a developing story. The Courier will post updates online as they come in.

Contact reporter Sal Christ at sal@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1035. Follow her on Twitter at @decriture, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SalChrist