PARK COUNTY, Colo. -- When Maggie Long and her sisters grew up in the rural mountain community of Bailey, Colorado, they knew they were one of a few Asian families in the area. Connie and Lynna Long, her sisters, said they never experienced any discrimination or racism, but they're left wondering if it was a factor in a brutal killing that no one can seem to explain.
"You have to wonder then, 'Why was the crime so hateful? Why did she die in such a violent brutal manner?' This is not a death that was accidental, it was completely intentional and so I think for those reasons there must be another angle of why somebody would go to that extent to express their hatred," said Lynna Long.
Earlier this week, the FBI confirmed the murder is being investigated as a possible hate crime. The FBI defines a hate crime as a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by the offender's bias against a religion, disability, ethnicity/national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.
"I think – for me, now that there’s been enough time to analyze and seek a motive – that looking at it from a hate crime perspective is truly worthy," said Lynna Long.
Long's parents are Chinese and immigrated to the U.S. where they opened restaurants in the Bailey community. They were born in a Vietnamese refugee camp.
Her sisters said they didn't initially think about about the murder as a possible hate crime.
"We didn’t go there in our minds, we didn’t think that, 'Oh, it’s because we’re Asian.' That was not our immediate response," said Connie Long.
Lynna Long is encouraging people in the community to re-think the case and she's hopeful the reclassification will lead to additional tips.
"Hopefully it gets people to think about the case from a different perspective or think about the interactions they may have had with people in Bailey during that time," said Lynna Long.
Authorities said they believe three suspects are responsible for Long's murder. They have not been identified or located. Authorities said the suspects may have been injured in the fire, and could have changed their appearances, sold the vehicles involved, and moved away from the area.
Several guns, a gun safe and jade figurines were stolen from Long’s home that day before the house was set on fire.
"She did not deserve what happened to her, she was the friendliest, the most innocent," said Connie Long.
The Long family recently contributed additional funds to increase the reward to $75,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Anyone with information about the murder of Maggie Long can submit an anonymous tip by contacting the FBI at 1-800-225-5324 or the Colorado Bureau of Investigation at 303-239-4243. Tips can also be submitted online by clicking here.