JEFFERSON COUNTY - Just a few weeks after Michael Blagg reported his wife and daughter missing, two of his coworkers at Ametek Dixson were pulled over while they were tailing him and trying to find an explanation for what they said was strange behavior at the office one Friday night.
Those coworkers, Linda Gardiner and Rita Meryhew, testified in a Jefferson County courtroom on Monday morning at the beginning of the third week of the now-55-year-old’s second trial. It has been more than 16 years since Nov. 13, 2001 — the day Blagg first called 911 and said he returned to his Grand Junction home to find his backdoor ajar, numerous items strewn on the floor of the bedroom and a large splatter of blood on his wife’s side of the bed.
Photos of Michael, Jennifer and Abby Blagg
BACKGROUND AND TIMELINE | After juror caught lying, man convicted in wife's 2001 murder will stand trial again
PREVIOUS STORY | Murder trial focuses on Michael Blagg's demeanor
His wife Jennifer and 6-year-old daughter Abby were missing. And while Jennifer Blagg’s body was found in the Mesa County landfill in June 2002, their daughter has not been found to this day. Michael Blagg was found guilty of killing his wife by a Mesa County jury in 2004, but that conviction was thrown out after a juror was caught lying on her questionnaire.
And now, some of the witnesses during the 2004 trial are back on the stand — this time in Jefferson County, where the case was moved due to its notoriety on the Western Slope.
Michael Blagg was the director of operations at Ametek Dixson when his wife was reported missing. Maryhew said in the weeks leading up to November 2001, she noticed a change in her coworker's demeanor.
“He went from just being upbeat, friendly, easygoing … to just being more negative about things,” she said.
Meryhew said she and Gardiner — who was her boss and a close friend — attended a vigil for Jennifer and Abby Blagg. She says she gave Michael Blagg a hug, and was surprised by what he said next.
“He looked at us and said ‘you better not let this stop you from making the month,” Meryhew said.
It wasn’t the only interaction she said she had with Michael Blagg that she could still remember 14 years later. Meryhew said in January 2002, she, her daughter and Gardiner went to dinner with Blagg.
First, he “slammed a beer” — something Meryhew said was unusual because Michael Blagg rarely drank. Next, Meryhew says he told them “I’m lucky to be a single guy having drinks and dinner with three beautiful women.”
During cross-examination, Meryhew conceded that she thought Michael Blagg was just making conversation at the time, though it struck her as odd he was talking about being single when his wife and daughter were missing.
Most of Meryhew and Gardiner’s testimony centered on the events of Jan. 11 and 12, 2001. That day, Maryhew said she had planned on staying at work late, and was chatting with Gardiner and Wes Hardin, Ametek’s general manager, in his office.
Michael Blagg later came in and said he had just done an interview with a local TV station.
“He came in and stated that 48 Hours was looking at doing a show on him,” Meryhew said. “He seemed happy.”
Later, Meryhew says Michael Blagg helped her bring a chair down some stairs to her office, and asked her how many people planned on staying late that night.
It was a Friday, and Meryhew said she was going to stay since she had work to do and her family wasn’t around. She says Blagg was insistent that she leave.
Blagg’s defense argued that this was because the company was cutting down on unnecessary expenses — including overtime and electricity.
In fact, Hardin testified that there was a company-wide initiative to do a better job turning off lights and locking doors at Ametek, but that it wasn’t necessarily entirely Blagg’s responsibility, and instead, something everyone was supposed to do.
But that Friday night, Blagg told Gardiner and Meryhew that’s what he was sticking around the office to take care of, and they noticed that he turned off the lights to the cafeteria while they were cleaning the refrigerator.
As Gardiner and Meryhew left the building, they say they noticed Blagg’s car was still there. They thought that was odd, so they drove around the building and noticed the light to the lunchroom was back on, and the door was unlocked.
They kept driving around the building, and they say they saw someone on the back loading dock near the trash compacter, and a company truck that had apparently backed into the area.
Eventually, they realized that person was Michael Blagg.
“We didn’t know why Mike had the company truck,” Meryhew said.
The two coworkers then drove to the bowling alley next door and called Hardin, saying they were concerned with what was apparently going on.
Hardin, who had been eating dinner at Pizza Hut with his family, said he showed up with his kids in tow. He said he asked Blagg what he was doing; Blagg said he was turning off lights near the loading dock. Hardin told him those were security lights and they definitely shouldn’t be off.
Hardin came back to the bowling alley and debriefed Gardiner and Meryhew. And that’s when Meryhew says they saw Blagg’s truck pull out.
The pair then followed him down the road next to Ametek, but couldn’t keep following him because they got pulled over, and had to tell Grand Junction police who they were following — and why.
Hardin came back to Ametek the next day, and said Michael Blagg’s car was in the parking lot and the lights to his office were on. A company truck was gone. When Michael Blagg did show up a few minutes later, he told Hardin he was at work on a Saturday because some people had been there late the night before, and he wanted to make sure the lights were off.
Later, a work bench, desk and shredder were reported missing from Ametek Dixon — and found at Michael Blagg’s house.
He was fired from Ametek Dixon in February 2002.
9NEWS is in the courtroom for the Michael Blagg trial and will be posting updates on 9NEWS and 9NEWS.com.