The Disappearance of Abby Jo Blagg

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EARLY LIFE:

Abby Jo Blagg was born on March 21, 1995 in San Diego, California to parents Jennifer and Michael Blagg. The pair met in the early 1990s while Michael was serving in the Navy and Jennifer was in college. They wed in 1993.

Michael and Jennifer were born-again Christians who led prayer meetings and consulted God daily for guidance. They started intercessory prayer ministries in local churches, and were members of the First Baptist Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina before relocating to Grand Junction, Colorado. Michael taught Sunday school, while Jennifer worked in the church’s prayer ministry.

The family moved to Grand Junction in 2000. Their home was in a quiet cul-de-sac in the 2200 block of Pine Terrace Court. Michael worked as operations director for the Dixon division of Ametek, Inc., a local manufacturing plant, while Jennifer was a stay-at-home mother. Abby attended classes at Bookcliff Christian School.

To those who knew the Blaggs, they appeared to be a happy, normal family. They doted on Abby, and the Reverend at their church called them a “poster child sort of family”.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

The events leading up to Abby and Jennifer’s disappearances are based on information provided to the authorities by Michael. It should be noted he is currently serving a life sentence for Jennifer’s murder.

Abby and Jennifer were last seen at the family home between 3:00pm and 3:30pm on November 12, 2001. According to Michael, Abby went to sleep around 7:00pm, and an hour later Jennifer received a phone call from a neighbour regarding a possible lunch meeting the following day.

Michael and Jennifer went to bed around 10:00pm. According to Michael, nothing appeared amiss during the overnight hours.

DISAPPEARANCE:

Michael claims he departed for work early the following morning, around 6:00am. Both Jennifer and Abby were still asleep.

As was routine, Michael called home periodically to speak with Jennifer, but each of his phone calls went unanswered. While his concern grew as the day progressed, he didn’t feel anything was wrong.

Michael returned home around 4:00pm, where he discovered signs of a struggle within the residence. The backdoor was open, which was unusual, and Abby didn’t come running toward him like she normally would. In the master bedroom, Jennifer’s purse and its contents were overturned on the dresser and her jewellery box was empty. The bed, which remained unmade, was stained with blood on Jennifer’s side.

At 4:20pm, Michael called the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. Soon after, the residence was sealed off as a potential crime scene.

SEARCH:

Investigators quickly learnt that an unknown individual called Bookcliff Christian School and told administrators Abby would be absent from class on November 13, 2001.

Friends and relatives in Arizona, California, Texas and South Carolina were questioned regarding Abby and Jennifer’s whereabouts. Officials also read through Jennifer’s journals, hoping they’d provide some clues. They were reportedly filled with Biblical references, and also mentioned her failing health and a “severe family crisis”. In her purse was an email from Michael, which further hinted at the pair’s marital problems. It read: “I would love to take some time to talk through the problems we are having. Do not give the devil a foothold.”

Based on this, investigators placed Michael under surveillance.

Their surveillance paid off in January 2002, when a camera allegedly recorded him stealing a paper shredder and a table, together worth over $500, from his employer. When questioned about the incident and his loved ones’ disappearances, he slit his wrists. He was taken to hospital in serious condition and released a week later.

While he’d written a note denying any knowledge as to what happened to Abby and Jennifer, the police publicly identified him as a possible suspect in their disappearances. This prompted Michael to hire an attorney.

The case drew national attention. To help prompt someone with information to come forward, the family put up a $3,000 reward.

Not long after Jennifer and Abby went missing, an employee from Colorado Legal Services in Grand Junction came forward to say they recognized them. They shared that Jennifer had visited the office several days before she disappeared, stating she wanted out of her abusive marriage. She’d been unable to immediately see an attorney and became upset. She left shortly after.

In December 2001, Michael moved out of the family home and into his mother’s house in Georgia, stating it was too difficult to remain there without his wife and daughter.

Around that time, he informed the authorities that a portion of Jennifer’s jewellery had been stolen from the residence on the day of her and Abby’s disappearances, although he had not noticed until then. He posited that the pair’s disappearances might be related to a series of burglaries that had occurred in Grand Junction in late 2001. According to investigators, only those pieces that had been insured were missing.

In late March 2002, investigators announced their belief that Abby and Jennifer were victims of foul play and that the family’s maroon and gold 2000 Ford Windstar was involved in transporting their bodies from the family home. The vehicle was parked inside the garage when they were reported missing.

An anonymous female contacted the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office several times, claiming she’d seen the family’s minivan near Park Ridge, Colorado on November 13, 2001. Police put out a public call for her to contact them again with additional details, but it’s currently unknown if she ever called them back.

Authorities announced a 45-mile search near the Blaggs’ home in April 2002. It was limited to those areas accessibly by a two-wheel drive, low-clearance vehicle similar to the Windstar, and included search dogs, citizen volunteers and officers on horseback, on foot and in the air. Despite searching for 12 days straight, they were unable to find any evidence related to the case.

Officials continued to search for clues around Grand Junction into the summer of 2002.

Documents released in June 2002 revealed the owner of a local escort service told investigators Michael would visit her business regularly for massages administered by topless women. This coincided with the discovery of pornographic images on his home computer. When approached about this, he claimed to be addicted. He also stated he and Jennifer had been having problems in late 2001 and the pornography was a way of “educating” themselves.

On June 4, 2002, human remains were discovered in a Mesa County landfill after investigators began a grid search of the dump. They’d zeroed in on the area they believed the trash from Ametek, Inc. had been dumped, this after learning from one of Michael’s former co-workers that he’d been acting unusual on November 13, 2001. They said he’d been pushing a pallet jack with two large cardboard boxes atop it, which he later discarded on the loading dock, near the trash compactor. He’d denied assistance when offered, which had struck the co-worker as odd.

The remains were identified as Jennifer Blagg on June 6, 2002. She’d been killed at close range by a gunshot to her left eye, and the 9mm bullet was still lodged in her skull. It appeared she’d been murdered in her sleep, as her dental retainer, which she only wore at night, was with her remains.

There was no evidence that Abby’s body was at the scene, and investigators remain uncertain if her remains will be located in the future.

Michael was swiftly arrested and charged with first-degree murder, as investigators believed Jennifer’s murder was premeditated. Along with the large amount of Jennifer’s blood found on the couple’s mattress, trace amounts were discovered on the Windstar’s steering wheel, gas pedal and on the inside passenger door.

He was not charged in relation to Abby’s disappearance, as her blood was not found in the home. It’s theorized she was an ancillary victim of the attack on Jennifer.

When Michael was returned to Colorado to face the charges against him, it was revealed he’d nearly confessed to the crime during questioning in February 2002, the same day he tried to commit suicide. It was reported he began crying during the session and had inquired as to the penalties for murder. He then requested to speak with his attorney and left police headquarters.

Michael was tried for Jennifer’s murder in March 2004. Prosecutors claimed he’d killed her because she wanted a divorce, and produced witnesses to speak to their pair’s deteriorating relationship.The defence argued Jennifer had been killed by an intruder, as there was no evidence directly tying Michael to the crime. After 12 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Michael and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. His attempt to appeal the conviction in 2008 was denied.

In 2014, it was discovered one of the jurors had lied about their domestic violence history when filling out the jury questionnaire. As such, Michael’s conviction was overturned and a new trial ordered. It took place in Jefferson County four years later, as the case was so well-known in Grand Junction.

At the retrial, the defence allowed convicted felon Thomas Furry to take the stand. Furry testified he’d seen Abby with a blonde woman at a Texaco gas station in Utah on the evening of November 16, 2001. He’d been on a “cross-country joyride of the West” in a stolen vehicle at the time. When he was arrested the next day and brought to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, he saw the missing persons flyer with Jennifer and Abby’s images on it. He immediately recognized Abby as the little girl he’d seen the night before.

The prosecution pointed out that Furry’s statements regarding the incident were inconsistent. Furthermore, the woman he was with that evening told the jury he was lying about what he saw that night.

The prosecution presented the same argument as it had during the first trial, with investigators testifying that evidence found in the Blagg home contradicted Michael’s version of events. After 17 hours of deliberation, he was found guilty of first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and two counts of theft. He was once again sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and is currently incarcerated at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City, Fremont County.

While the investigation into Abby’s disappearance remains open, investigators believe she is dead and buried somewhere other than the site where Jennifer’s body was located. Dozens of investigators have worked the case over the years, including those from the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Abby Jo Blagg went missing from Grand Junction, Mesa County, Colorado on November 12, 2001. She was 6 years old, and what she was last wearing is currently unknown. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 4’0″ and weighed 44 pounds. She has strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes.

Currently, the case is classified as endangered missing, with foul play suspected. If alive, she would be 26 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office at 970-244-3500.

Image Credit: Find A Grave/The Charley Project

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