Will Michael Blagg's Retrial Feature New Suspect in His Wife's Murder?

Michael Blagg's 2004 conviction for murdering his wife, Jennifer, was overturned in 2014; he remains in jail without bond awaiting a second trial.
Michael Blagg's 2004 conviction for murdering his wife, Jennifer, was overturned in 2014; he remains in jail without bond awaiting a second trial. File photo
This week, siblings of Michael Blagg went to court to try to get information released in the state's tight-lipped attempt to convict Blagg a second time around for murdering his wife — including defense documents that they believe identify a possible alternate suspect and have been suppressed from public view.

The development is the latest twist in a high-profile homicide case that stretches back sixteen years, to the 2001 violent death of Mesa County resident Jennifer Blagg and the disappearance of her six-year-old daughter, Abby. The investigation seemed to have reached a resolution in 2004, when a jury found Michael guilty of Jennifer's murder. Prosecutors presented evidence that he'd shot her in the face while she was in bed and took her body to a dumpster at his business; police found the body in a local landfill. (Abby has never been found, alive or dead, and Blagg was never charged with her murder.)

But Blagg's conviction was overturned a decade later, after Judge David Bottger ruled that one of the jurors in the case had committed misconduct. During jury selection, the woman had denied any personal experience with domestic violence, which was a key component of the case against Blagg; long after the trial was over, the juror admitted at a Grand Junction city council meeting that she'd been "a victim of domestic violence for ten years."

Blagg has remained in jail without bond, awaiting a new trial, for the past three years. His attorneys were successful in getting the new trial moved from Grand Junction to Golden and fended off an attempt by the prosecution to introduce evidence never used at the first trial that suggests Blagg made a previous attempt to kill his wife and daughter by causing a gas leak.

No trial date has yet been set, but a preliminary hearing is scheduled later this month. That prompted the motion by John Dorman Blagg III and Clare Peterson, Blagg's brother and sister, seeking more information about the alternate suspect. According to the document filed by their attorney, Gail Johnson, an astonishing 27 out of 33 filings in the case made since last December have been entered under seal, meaning that people who aren't parties in the proceeding can't see them. Several documents Johnson herself filed were promptly placed under "protected" status by court staff.

"The Blagg siblings have been waiting for 16 years to find out who committed these brutal crimes," Johnson argues in her motion to unseal records. "They have a strong interest in learning about any alternate suspect that has finally come to light."

The filing also notes that the siblings believe strongly in Blagg's innocence: "At the time when someone murdered his wife and apparently abducted and murdered his daughter, Michael Blagg was an upstanding citizen who had no criminal record. He had served his country honorably as a Navy lieutenant commander, helicopter pilot, and nuclear engineer. Michael loved his wife and daughter and had no motive to kill them."
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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast