Two years after the Dec. 1, 2017 murder, of Maggie Long, much has changed.
Parties responsible for conducting the murder investigation have changed, with the election of a new county Sheriff in November of 2018.
The murder investigation itself has also evolved, as an assortment of crime-solving agencies, in conjunction with the Park County Sheriff’s Department, have distributed an increasingly frequent string of public announcements and updates pertaining to the case.
As a result of those efforts, public awareness about intricate and often painful details of the murder, as well as the state of the ongoing investigation, has increased considerably.
Last week, for example, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation released a statement suggesting that a fourth person might have been involved in Long’s murder. All information prior to that statement indicated that there were three individuals spotted at the Long residence on the day of the murder, and investigators had not publicly mentioned the possibility of, or evidence pointing to, a fourth suspect.
CBI reports that the fourth possible perpetrator could be male or female, and that the suspect had long hair.
Each of these developments since Long’s murder has been widely reported by local, regional and even national news sources, including The Flume.
Unfortunately, what has not changed since the murder is the fact that those responsible for Long’s death remain at large.
Long, 17, was a student at Platte Canyon High School and a lifetime resident of Bailey. She was immensely popular among her classmates, and very active in extra-curricular activities such as live theater.
Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw spoke as candidly as possible about the ongoing investigation of Long’s murder in a Nov. 28 interview with The Flume. In that interview, he elaborated on his belief that the suspects likely have criminal records.
“I just think that, because of the nature of this crime, these are people who very likely have criminal backgrounds,” McGraw said. “It takes a certain mentality, and a certain personality type, to commit an act like this. To burn a woman alive is not something many people are capable of doing.”
McGraw also discussed the ebb and flow of tips and information provided by the public, as well as the emotional peeks and valleys that information can sometimes prompt among investigative entities.
“We received a drastic increase in tips after the press conference in March, and any time media outlets produce stories about Maggie, we also seem to receive an influx of new activity,” McGraw said.
“We have received a couple of tips that produced some excitement, but I have seen enough investigations similar to this to learn that you just never know, and to try to stay pretty even from an emotional standpoint.
“What I can tell you is that I am more optimistic today than I was previously that this case will be solved. I say that because I know the extent to which many very skilled investigators are working on this every day. They are not letting this case go, and I still feel strongly that this case could pop any time.”
McGraw went so far as to say he is somewhat surprised that there have been no arrests made as of yet in Long’s death.
“Usually, when you have a group of people involved in a crime, someone generally talks, or says something that leads to a break in the case,” he said. “That’s another reason I am optimistic that this will eventually be solved. I am actually sort of surprised that hasn’t already happened.”
What have we learned?
The flow of information from authorities was unusually slow to develop during the days, weeks and months following Long’s murder. Six days went by, for example, before the Park County Sheriff’s Department admitted that a body had been discovered at the Long residence.
Concrete information about Long’s murder began to emerge more freely when Sheriff-elect Tom McGraw spearheaded a well-attended March 27, 2019, press conference at the CBI in Lakewood.
At that time, McGraw, who spent considerable time as a homicide detective in Florida, distributed sketches of two individuals and announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for Long’s murder. Also at that time, McGraw divulged specific information about the murder that had not yet been publically divulged.
McGraw insisted, and still does, that the more exposure the case receives, the more likely those responsible will eventually be brought to justice.
A summary of the information released at the press conference is as follows:
Long was deliberately burned alive at her home.
At least three male suspects spent considerable time at the Long residence on the day of the murder.
One or more of the suspects might have sustained physical injuries as a result of the fire.
A new website, www.maggielongtaskforce.com, was developed and launched to seek and provide new information pertaining to the case.
The investigative task force represents collective efforts of the PCSO, CBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
McGraw divulged that sketches of the individuals were provided by eyewitness accounts on the day of the murder.
A list of items taken from the Long residence was provided to the public.
A summary of information released since the press conference is as follows:
According to McGraw, many new leads were generated by the news conference, and many have since been thoroughly pursued by investigators.
McGraw says the investigation has led him to believe the murder was “a crime of opportunity.”
McGraw says he suspects that those responsible are probably not residents of Bailey.
McGraw believes the perpetrators likely have previous criminal records.
The possibility of a fourth individual was recently reported by the CBI.
The Sheriff also told The Flume that the double suicide of two young men at Mount Lindo, in Jefferson County, had no connection to the Long murder.
Perhaps with what has been learned over the past two years, and the determined efforts of investigators, 2020 will ultimately be highlighted by the capture of Long’s killers.
In the meantime, Long’s friends and family, as well as the entirety of a frustrated but hopeful mountain community, await justice.