Forever Seventeen

***TRIGGER WARNING***

The following deals with a True Crime murder

Bailey, Colorado – Park County

December 1, 2017

Seventeen-year-old Maggie Long, excited to be a part of the first concert at Platte Canyon High School, had forgotten something at home. After school, she drove the 20 minutes to her family’s ranch to retrieve it. When she pulled up the long driveway, she noticed a white van, an old beat-up Ford truck, and a brownish colored older model minivan blocking the garage door. Her family had been renting out their attic space to some people and probably thought the cars belonged to them. We will never know what was going on in her head that afternoon.

I didn’t know her personally but had heard much about her. She was on the debate team at Platte Canyon High School, where I had been a judge earlier in the year. She was good. A straight “A” student, a thespian for the local theater group, and everyone knew her. No one ever had a bad word to say about Maggie. She was an excellent role model for many of her fellow students and friends. Every year on her birthday, she would make hundreds of sandwiches, passing them out to the homeless on the streets of Denver. Many saw her studying at a table at her parent’s Chinese restaurant. You don’t run across many people like Maggie in your lifetime.

The following morning, I awoke to Facebook posts asking the public if they had seen Maggie. Pictures of her were attached to the post, and her sister said she was missing. There were numerous comments of concern and volunteers wanting to put a search party together. But the police said no, it wasn’t necessary, without giving anyone a reason.

When the students went back to school on Monday, there were grief counselors on hand for them. The parents were confused. Why grief counselors if Maggie was only missing? Did she have a fight with her parents? Did she quarrel with her boyfriend? The community still had no answers, and the police weren’t saying anything.

A week passed. The police came out with an official statement. A gag order was placed on all information on the case. Maggie’s burned body was found in her parent’s house. They had known all along and never said a word to the public. An entire week had gone by without a word about Maggie. The community, visibly upset and angry, wanting to know what happened to Maggie.

The details of that day are sketchy. Maggie went home to retrieve something she had forgotten for the concert. Upon entering her home, she interrupted a burglary taking place by three young white males. She fought with them. They ended up overtaking her, tying her to a bed. Speculation, she had been raped. During the burglary, the murderers stole jade figurines, a gun safe, several weapons including handguns and an AR-15 with over 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Loading up a white van, a brownish minivan, and an old Ford 150 pickup truck. They poured gasoline on Maggie and set her on fire. According to the coroner’s report, she had been burned alive.

When the renters called the police, the vehicles were still at the residence. The police or fire department had to have passed them as they approached the house. Unbeknownst to law enforcement, they allowed the killers to get away. Because their ranch set back onto acres of land and secluded from the road, there was only one way in and one way out. They drove out of the ranch gates and headed for Denver, in the dark. They are still on the run.

The community, shocked and horrified. Her friends, devastated. They wanted to know why the police withheld the information. They wanted to know why they hadn’t found the killers yet. Waiting over a week to disclose any information, law enforcement now wanted to know if anyone had seen anything. A tip line was set up. They questioned thousands of residents, going door to door, taking DNA samples from boys in the town fifteen and older. The police force called in the FBI and CBI. Roadblocks were set up by the ranch gates, stopping every resident going down the road passing out flyers featuring a generic sketch of one of the killers, along with pictures of what was taken from the house; they came up empty-handed.

Months passed, and they had no leads in the case. Maggie’s parents closed both restaurants they owned and left town. Rumors started to fly. One stated the family was targeted. They had been involved in illegal activities, trafficking Chinese people for some gang. All ridicules, all unfounded. Who could blame them for leaving town?

Maggie was to celebrate her eighteenth birthday that year on December 17th. Two weeks after her murder, her friends continued the tradition of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They handed out sandwiches to the homeless, all in her memory. That June, she was an honorary graduate. Her sister accepted her high school diploma.

On the one-year anniversary of Maggie’s murder, the FBI and CBI set up another roadblock by the ranch gates. This time they had sketches of three males who may be involved. A website designated for tips as well as supplying information to the public. But again, the case still isn’t solved.

When another case similar to Maggie’s happened in Missouri, the police and FBI sent out a detective to interview the young woman, who had survived, trying to get a description of her perpetrators. They were, in fact caught, but the DNA sample wasn’t a match. Another potential lead lost.

My family and I have moved from the area, but it is still a hard pill to swallow for the community at large. An emptiness felt throughout the town when Maggie was killed, and a rage still exists about how the police department handled the case. The sheriff, who decided to start his retirement early, unbeknownst to the townspeople who paid his salary. Many believe if he had been around, the killers wouldn’t have gotten away.

The two-year anniversary of Maggie’s murder is approaching, and still, the police have no new leads. The entire community still mourns her loss. The three men in the sketch are still free and believe they have gotten away with murder.

The reason I am writing this story is the information needs to go beyond Colorado. These men could be anywhere. The more platforms that publish the story, the more eyes get to look for any similarities. One man is believed to have burn marks on one of his forearms.

Timeline:

On the day of Maggie’s murder, she was reported to have left school around 3:30-3:35 pm. She would have arrived at her home by 4:00  pm.

A local resident was driving down Deer Creek Valley Ranchos Road and recalls no unusual activity at the Long home. The 911 call came into police dispatch at 7:01 pm. The reporting party stated they heard yelling and items being thrown around. They also smelled smoke. The reporting party was the tenants who lived in the attic.

A local resident reported an older model, tan vehicle driving fast out of the Long Ranch, crossing over into oncoming traffic.

Fire department was called out at 7:12 pm.  Arriving at the residence, they discovered a one-story frame house with a fire in the garage.

By 8:00 pm the tenant was able to be removed from the residence. At 8:15, CBI was called out due to multiple fire ignitions. 8:45 pm completely extinguished fire when the coroner was called out to the scene. The family had gathered in the driveway, and no one was permitted to enter the premises.

Around 9:30 pm, Maggie’s sister posted a call for help to find her sister.

That evening, the concert went on without Maggie. Her friends, fellow students, and teachers were asking about her all night. It was unusual for her not to be there, especially since she was one of the organizers. When I see the timeline of events, it saddens me. To know, while she was suffering, others were enjoying themselves, listening and dancing to music. Was Maggie there in spirit? From 7 pm, the start of the concert, until it ended at 9 pm, Maggie’s spirit was among her friends; whispering her last goodbyes, knowing she would forever be seventeen.

There’s currently a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible.

See photos here

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