|Dark Side Of
Did Michael Blagg Murder His Wife And Daughter?
(CBS) This broadcast originally aired on Oct. 9,
In the high desert, on the Rockies western
slope, the Mesas tower over the town of Grand
Junction, Colo., protected from the outside
But on June 4, 2002, Grand Junction saw the
unearthing of a shocking secret at the local
The decomposed body of
34-year-old Jennifer Blagg was found wrapped in a red
and black plastic tent.
Jennifer and her six-year-old daughter, Abby, had been
missing for seven months.
Correspondent Susan Spencer reports.
What happened inside the walls of the Blagg family house
still haunts the town of Grand Junction. The Blaggs –
Michael, Jennifer and Abby – seemed so happy together.
"Two years ago, I had everything," says Michael Blagg,
Jennifer's husband. "I had a great job, wonderful
family, incredible wife and daughter. Everything was
going perfect for me."
"They're kind of a poster-child sort of a family,"
recalls Rev. Art Blankenship, who got to know the Blaggs
in 2000 through their small, evangelical church. "They
just looked like an ideal couple. They were friendly,
open, and people seemed to like them a lot."
Both Michael and Jennifer were enthusiastic born-again
Christians, and organized personal prayer groups for the
congregation. The couple had met 10 years before in
California, when he was in the Navy and she was in
college. He was a decorated Gulf War veteran, a
Jennifer stayed close to her mother, Marilyn, even after
she married Michael in 1993. "I liked Michael from the
beginning," recalls Marilyn Conway. "He was a very
personable young man. They seemed happy. I thought they
Michael's mother, Betsy Blagg, also agreed that the two
were a fairy-tale couple: "In every letter, she'd
[Jennifer] tell me how much she loved Michael.
Everything was marvelous. They couldn't be more happy,
and he was absolutely in love with her."
Their daughter, Abby, was born three years after the
Blaggs married and Michael and Jennifer seemed to dote
When Michael went out the door at 6 a.m. on Nov. 13,
2001, the day his family vanished, he says his wife and
daughter were still asleep.
He headed off to his job as an operations manager at the
Ametek Dixson Company, a local manufacturing plant. He
says he called around 7 a.m., called again mid-morning,
and then again at noon. No one answered.
"Now I'm getting a little worried. I haven't heard from
her. She hasn't called me back on any of these calls,"
says Michael, who called her again that afternoon.
Michael says he left for home around 4 p.m. He later
told the police that he sensed something was wrong the
second he walked in and saw the back door open. But he
says nothing prepared him for the horror of what he saw
in the bedroom.
|"I could see
there was a large dark spot on the bed," recalls
Michael. "I think maybe she's rolled off the bed
and is on the ground on the other side, so I go
to the other side of the bed and there's more
blood on the floor, and running down the side of
the bed. And so at this point, I know I have to
call for help."
The 911 dispatcher told Michael to check the
garage. The couple's minivan was still there,
but it wasn't until the dispatcher asked about
his daughter Abby that Michael finally checked
her room and discovered she was gone, as well.
The story of a bloody bed, and a missing mother and
child, rocked Grand Junction.
Sheriff's Investigator Steve King tried to make sense of
a bloody and bewildering crime scene.
Jennifer's purse was on the dresser, the contents,
including her keys to the van, spilled out. An e-mail
from Michael, an apparent apology, was also found in the
purse: "I would love to take some time to talk through
the problems we are having. ...Do not give the devil a
Jennifer's empty jewelry box was also found on the
carpet, near the blood-soaked bed.
"You're struck by the fact that there was all sorts of
other things there that someone that is in there purely
for monetary gain would have taken with them," says
King. "So I'm saying, 'You know, this crime scene
doesn't look right. It looks like it was staged.'"
"I had no idea what had happened," which is exactly what
Michael repeatedly told officers that night in an
intense interview. "I just knew that it was bad
...whatever it was, it was bad."
He didn't have a lawyer present. "But I saw a lot of
blood," says Michael. "A lot of blood."
Michael admitted in measured tones that there were some
rocky times, but his marriage to Jennifer was solid.
King, however, found Michael's calm and collected manner
strangely unsettling. "I said to him, 'If my wife and
kid were missing, I would probably be at St. Mary's
Hospital being medicated at this point because it's so
|Over the next
few days, the community reached out to Michael.
And Jennifer's mother was right by her
son-in-law's side. Michael's appeals to find his
wife and young daughter were heartbreaking, but
investigators were beginning to have their
For one thing, the blood evidence was puzzling.
DNA tests confirmed that Jennifer's blood was
found on the bed, but strangely, nowhere else in
the house. Even more striking was the one other
place where her blood was found: the family van,
parked in the garage.
Investigator Steve King began to meet with Michael on an
informal basis. "He needed information about the case
and I needed information about him and his life and his
family," says King, who also began exploring Michael's
claims of having a fairy-tale marriage.
In late November, Michael privately admitted to King
that he was addicted to hardcore pornography, and that,
when Jennifer found out, she became very upset. But
then, Michael says, Jennifer decided to join him online.
"She told me, 'I don't want you to be doing this, but if
you are going to be doing this, then we should be
together with this,'" says Michael.
He says they used hardcore porn sites purely as an
Three months after Jennifer and Abby disappeared,
investigators brought Michael back for questioning,
again with no lawyer present. Michael says they
interrogated him for more than 10 hours.
By then, the FBI was involved in this case, and
Michael's interview, unlike the first one, was not
"They were telling me, 'We know you did it. You're the
one,'" says Michael. "There were the people that I was
trusting to find my wife and daughter, and to bring them
home to me. [They were] putting their finger in my chest
and saying, 'You're the one. I know you killed them.
Just tell us.'"
The next morning, police found Michael lying in a tub,
filled with water. Michael, who tried to slit his
wrists, had a picture of Jennifer and Abby, and a Bible.
Investigators also found a suicide note in which Michael
insisted he was not a murderer. But for some, Michael's
suicide attempt was a clear sign of a guilty conscience.
Michael's mother-in-law, Marilyn Conway, was
beginning to have questions. She agreed to help
investigators by leaving Michael a series of
phone messages. Michael never responded, but
investigator King was sure Michael was capable
of murdering his wife and daughter.
Five months after Jennifer and Abby disappeared,
volunteer searchers fanned out over the
highlands and rivers around Grand Junction.
King says that over a period of 11 days, 200 volunteers
searched 45 miles around the Blagg residence.
But Michael wasn't among the volunteers who looked for
He says that officers told him not to go on the search.
"They said as a potential suspect, they just thought
that it would be bad for me to be out there. And so, I
was barred from being able to search for my daughter and
wife," Michael explains.
By the spring of 2002, no bodies had been found, but
Michael was now a suspect.
And King had a working theory: "He shoots his wife. My
belief is that he went upstairs and suffocated his
daughter, got the tent out of the garage, put Jennifer
in that tent, put them both in the van and went to
Ametek Dixson, and put both of them in the trash
But if Michael had put Jennifer's body in his company's
dumpster, then her remains should have ended up in the
county landfill. Using global positioning technology and
landfill logs, a grid system was set up, zeroing in on
quadrants where investigators believed they would find
trash from Michael's company.
Finally, after 16 days of searching, they found
Jennifer's body. Authorities wasted no time, and
arrested Michael two days later, at his mother's home in
Michael's sister, Claire Rochester, arrived in Grand
Junction just as the final jury members were being
chosen. She wondered if a fair trial would be possible
for her brother.
"The people in this town need to understand that all of
this time and this money and this energy that the police
and the D.A. have devoted towards accusing my brother
has been wasted," Rochester said. "I think it should
frighten the public that there is somebody out there
that committed this crime."
But David Eisner, Michael's lead attorney, said the cops
never considered that. "They chose Michael Blagg as
their No. 1 suspect, and they latched onto him and never
let him go," he said.
Eisner said this resulted in untrue allegations that
undermined Michael's character in the community. Among
these allegations was one that Michael was looking at
hardcore Internet pornography the night before he
reported Jennifer missing.
Another allegation, which was widely reported in the
local media, claimed that Michael had visited an escort
service for sex. There were also leaks of Jennifer
seeking advice on divorce from the local legal aid
"It's a question of putting together all the pieces,"
said District Attorney Frank Daniels, who would
prosecute the case.
Michael was free on bail until trial. He started each
morning with church, and then went to his lawyers'
office to help prepare his own case.
Otherwise, Blagg and his visiting family rarely went
There were too many stares, and they had few friends in
this town. "He did not kill his wife," says Rochester.
"He did not do anything to harm or take his daughter. It
did not happen."
As the murder trial of Michael Blagg began, the families
of Michael and Jennifer, once very close, found
themselves on opposite sides of the courtroom.
The prosecution laid out its case and argued that the
fatal weekend began with a fight on Friday, a fight that
Jennifer noted in one of her religious books.
The weekend ended, says District Attorney Frank Daniels,
with Jennifer's murder late Monday night. "That night,
as Jennifer lay in bed, Michael got his gun, he loaded a
round into the chamber and he shot Jennifer in the
face," Daniels said.
Daniels suggested that Michael murdered his wife because
his addiction to Internet pornography had destroyed his
once-solid marriage. He then showed the jury the apology
e-mail from Michael that said: "I'm sorry if I've given
the devil a foothold."
Daniels argued that the devil was lurking in Michael's
computer – which included nearly 700 pornographic
The prosecution, however, insisted that Michael was a
murderer, and that he transported Jennifer's body in the
family van after he shot and killed his wife.
The defense had trouble explaining what happened that
night, and how blood was found in the family van. "If it
weren't a challenge, we wouldn't be here," said Eisner,
who maintained that finding Jennifer's blood in the van
Family friends took the stand to praise Michael's
marriage and his character. But the defense had a
difficult time dealing with Michael's first taped
interview, where he seemed detached.
"There is no emotion, no passion, no 'Where is my wife
and daughter,'" said Jennifer's brother, David Loman.
"It's not there. It doesn't exist."
More damaging to Michael's case than his demeanor,
however, was surprise testimony from his mother-in-law,
Marilyn Conway. Her testimony would shock the defense.
"Michael hurt her in Corpus. He hurt her in Corpus, yes,
he did," said Marilyn Conway on the stand, referring to
an alleged incident in Corpus Christi, Texas. "She
called home one night and said that Mike had cornered
her in the bedroom and was obviously drunk. I understood
that he was trying to choke her."
Conway said it happened 10 years ago, and it was an
incident that was forgotten until now. "I wasn't even
aware it was gonna come out of my mouth," she says. "It
just came out."
But Eisner said she got on the stand and lied. "I think
she saw the D.A.'s case faltering and having serious
problems. And I think she felt she would do whatever she
could to help that case out. ... She made it up."
With his murder trial coming to its close, Michael was
sticking to what had become a morning ritual - a
friendly nod and smile for the jurors, day after day.
"While they hold incredible power, they're interested in
seeing me as a person, too," Michael explained. "And I
think it's important to make the eye contact when
His sister, Clare, waited and worried. "My family is not
prepared for a guilty verdict," she said. "We're looking
forward to this being over. And at the same time, it's
very frightening because 'over' may not be the outcome
that we know should happen."
Since Michael didn't taking the stand, Eisner used
Jennifer's words from a letter found in Michael's desk
just days after her disappearance, to show that Michael
would never have harmed her.
Eisner then tries to convince the jury that Michael
loved Jennifer. "Is he a cold-blooded murderer, or a
loving family man and husband? You decide," he said to
The prosecution tried to bring the jury back. "Your job
is to bring justice," said District Attorney Daniels.
"The evidence is overwhelming."
"I am innocent of these charges and I have nothing
further to say," Michael said, who was sentenced to
serve a life sentence.
Unless he wins an appeal, Michael Blagg will spend his
life behind bars, without the possibility of parole.
"He's a narcissistic pig as far as I'm concerned, and
deserves the sentence he got," said Prosecutor Daniels.
"I guess the jury just didn't have the courage they
needed," defense attorney Eisner said.
But the jury's verdict didn't answer the looming
question: Why would a man who seemed to have it all
commit such a heinous crime against a loving wife and
"Everybody would have to draw their own conclusion,"
Jennifer's mother, Marilyn said. "I believe Jennifer was
going to leave him."
"The bottom line is that Michael Blagg's gonna have a
long, hard life. And then he's gonna have to face God,"
said King. "And Jennifer and Abby will be sitting on
God's lap that day and that's when justice will be
Faith also comforts Jennifer's brother, David Loman, who
is keeping up the search for his niece, Abby.
"It's the idea of putting mother and daughter together
again," he says. "Anybody who's been married understands
anger – not that kind of anger. But a child, whether it
be your child or someone else's child, it doesn't
matter. It's a child."
Soon after Michael Blagg was sent to prison, he was
beaten by other inmates.
Michael Blagg maintains his innocence and is hoping for
a new trial.