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Investigators in Maggie Long case say family home was targeted

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Man described in sketch is same individual in BOLO

By Sal Christ

 Nearly six months after 17-year-old Maggie Long was murdered at her family's home in Bailey, investigators are finally sharing more information about the case — specifically saying that the Long family home was targeted and that Long's murder was not part of a pattern of crimes occurring in neighboring counties or elsewhere.

In an interview with the Courier on Wednesday, Detective Sgt. Greg Jones — Park County’s lead detective on the investigative task force, which includes individuals from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) — said investigators believe the person or people responsible for Long’s death targeted the family's home when it was burglarized and burned Dec. 1, but have yet to narrow the scope of their investigation on a specific suspect or motive. 

“All we know for sure is we have a house that was targeted, burned, and Maggie was killed somewhere in the process of this,” Jones said. “And things are missing that we know are missing from the house. Those are the only facts that are not in dispute.”

According to Jones, as well as Park County Undersheriff Dave Wohlers, investigators believe the Long home was targeted, in part, because there's little evidence to suggest otherwise.

Despite task force efforts, investigators have yet to unearth similar crimes in other jurisdictions or elsewhere in the United States, and a “be on the lookout,” or BOLO, alert issued in December neither confirmed a crime pattern nor a string of crimes occurring as the suspect or suspects possibly passed through neighboring jurisdictions.

The BOLO, which was issued just hours after Long’s remains were publicly identified and was inadvertently leaked to the public after being sent through the wrong radio communications channel Dec. 7, was issued as a way of establishing whether Long’s murder was a pattern crime, as well as whether the possible suspect was committing other crimes while leaving the scene, according to Wohlers. 

Both Wohlers and Jones said the absence of a crime pattern, as well as the belief that the Long home was targeted, are why they believe the community is not in any danger — even in light of the theft of firearms and ammunition from the Long residence.

“If that would have been the case — the community being in danger — this would have gone a different way,” said Wohlers. “We didn't have anything to indicate that we were going to have individuals on a crime wave, hitting houses on a rolling crime spree.” 

 

Jones: Man described in BOLO is same individual in sketch

While Jones and Wohlers declined to comment on the details of how Long was killed or the crime scene, Jones confirmed that the individual described in a sketch released by investigators May 4 is the same man described in the December BOLO.

The BOLO specified that investigators were looking for a white male in his 20s who may or may not have been driving an older model minivan from the 1990s or 2000s, and who may have smelled of gasoline and had flash burns on his arms. Described as “armed and extremely dangerous,” the man was believed to have last been seen driving northbound on County Road 43 in Bailey. In addition to suspect information, the BOLO also included information about items stolen from the Long home, including an AK-47 rifle, a Beretta 9mm handgun and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

While Wohlers declined at the time to confirm the details of the BOLO, audio recordings later acquired by the Courier confirmed the content of the BOLO, and investigators publicly acknowledged the theft of the firearms, a green safe and jade figurines from the Long home at a February press conference. 

Though investigators have since walked back suggestions that the man described in both the BOLO and the composite sketch is a suspect or person of interest, the individual pictured is a light-complected male with short hair. Pictures of an older model minivan, as well as an older model pickup truck, accompanied the sketch as examples of the vehicles investigators are looking for. 

 

Investigation fraught with multiple leads, dishonest interviewees

Despite little public information from investigators over the past five-and-a-half months, both Jones and Wohlers said the task force has worked nonstop on the case — logging thousands of hours among the four agencies and dozens of investigators, including translators and behavioral analysts with the FBI, tip line monitors, and others whose work revolves around vetting every tip and interviewing the now hundreds of possible witnesses, including community members and the tenant who called 911 the night Long was killed, as well as friends, family members and classmates of Long. 

“A lot of people will say, 'Well, it's been five months — why hasn't it been solved?' Well, it's been five months of every day being occupied with something. It hasn't been five months of idle time,” said Jones. “I can't stress how important and personal this is for all of us. Anyone that's had a teenage daughter, this has been reprehensible. This is something where nobody is sleeping well.”

For Jones, who spent 30 years with the Denver Police Department prior to joining the Park County Sheriff's Office, it's been a frustrating process — particularly when Long's murder was a case he expected to be solved and wrapped up in a short period of time after her death.

“If you would have asked me the Monday after the murder, I would have told you that I feel pretty confident that this will be wrapped up — and I'm being conservative — by Christmas. The fact that it didn't is frustrating,” he said.

Both Jones and Wohlers said that typical murder investigations yield a suspect and motive fairly quickly, but called the investigation into Long's death complex.

“It's like a football field full of rocks, and the rocks are the tips or clues,” said Jones. “ … In a normal investigation, you turn over a rock, and there's not much there. For this one, there's been something under every rock that has sent us down many paths that have to be completed. The pursuit of those clues has been slowed by a lack of truthfulness from a lot of the participants.”

Though neither elaborated on who was dishonest and what about, Jones said some interviewees lied to protect their own interests instead of helping with the investigation.

Adding to the frustration is a lack of consistency about possible suspects and motive — the possibilities change from week to week. 

“I'm not trying to be elusive, but we honestly don't know,” said Jones. “There's not anyone that's strong enough right now to be a person of interest or a suspect. We have multiple leads that are going many different directions. Even if I were to give you a list of names today, it wouldn't probably be the same list of people next week.”

While Jones said he'd love to see the case solved soon, both he and Wohlers expect the investigation to be a long-term endeavor at this point in time.

Anyone with information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of anyone involved in Long's death is asked to call the investigative tip line at 303-239-4243. A reward of $25,000 is being offered.

 

The Courier requested to interview other task force members from assisting agencies, but the request was unable to be fulfilled due to scheduling conflicts. 

            

Contact reporter Sal Christ at sal@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1035. Follow her on Twitter at @decriture.