A Colorado man whose conviction for killing his wife in 2001 was overturned was convicted again on Thursday, according to multiple reports.
But the question of what happened to the couple’s 6-year-old daughter — who vanished at the time of the murder — remains unanswered.
Jurors who sat through a five-week trial and deliberated for three days found Michael Blagg guilty of fatally shooting his wife, Jennifer, 34, while she slept and then wrapping her body in a tent before dumping it in a trash bin behind his office on Nov. 13, 2001, three days before the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary, according to prosecutors, Denver TV station KUSA reports.
That day, Michael had reported both Jennifer and their daughter, Abby, missing from their rented three-bedroom home outside Grand Junction. He said he returned from work to find a blood-soaked scene in the master bedroom and his family gone.
Jennifer’s decomposing body, with the retainer she wore to bed still in her mouth, was found more than six months later mixed with trash from Blagg’s employer at the Mesa County landfill.
The whereabouts of Abby remain unknown.
Blagg was tried and convicted in Jennifer’s murder in 2004. But after the revelation that a juror in the trial had not disclosed a domestic violence incident in her own background in order to win a seat on the panel, that conviction was dismissed, The Denver Post reports.
Blagg and his family maintain he didn’t do it.
“Our brother, Michael Blagg, is innocent,” said his sister, Claire Peterson, according to Denver TV station KDVR. “And we will not give up the fight until he’s found not guilty and we can bring him home.”
A call from PEOPLE to the Glenwood Springs Public Defender’s Office of Blagg’s defense attorney, Tina Fang, was not immediately returned.
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The defense argued at his latest trial that still-missing Abby was the possible target of a child predator — even naming a potential suspect — and Jennifer’s murder scene was staged in an attempt to frame Blagg.
“For 16 years, Michael Blagg has lived with the real and horrifying truth that a serial pedophile, a serial killer, someone, took his wife and daughter,” Fang said in court during her closing statement, according to KUSA.
Prosecutors instead alleged tension in the marriage. After he took the stand in his defense, Blagg was made by prosecutors to read a list of pornographic websites that turned up on a search of his computer, and while he acknowledged they caused conflict in his marriage, he said that he and his wife watched pornography together.
The family belonged to two churches in Grand Junction, and Abby was enrolled in first grade at Bookcliff Christian School, where Jennifer, a homemaker, volunteered two days a week as a teacher’s aide.
“Those in this room know the devastation that occurred November 2001,” Jennifer’s mother, Marilyn Conway, said in court, KDVR reports. “From that time to this, the loss of two children at one time — nothing compares.
“This particular situation rearranges a family. Your attitude, your outlook, the way you live your life. … Nothing is ever, ever the same.”
In addition to murder, Blagg was convicted of abuse of a corpse, use of a deadly weapon, and stealing items from his employer, Ametek Dixon.
District Judge Tamara Russell sentenced him to life in prison.
It was not immediately clear if Blagg planned to appeal.