Lost time may leave Bergeson murder cold

Nancy Bergeson, seen in an undated photo, was murdered in 2009. Her case has not been solved, Nov. 27, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Nancy Bergeson, seen in an undated photo, was murdered in 2009. Her case has not been solved, Nov. 27, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – When Nancy Bergeson died two days before Thanksgiving in 2009, there were no visible marks on her body found in the dining room of her Southwest Portland home.

It wasn’t until the autopsy 12 hours later that investigators learned the 57-year-old woman was killed.

And in that half-day there is a chance the crime scene was compromised before the medical examiner finally made his ruling. Police said that day they would have spent searching for her killer was lost.

No one has ever been arrested in the case of the murdered public defender.

Four years later, her mother’s death is still painful for Jamie Bergeson.

“It’s obviously hard because it’s the holidays and it’s tough to relive over and over again what that first Thanksgiving was like,” she told KOIN 6 News in a recent phone interview.

“We would love for there to be closure,” said Nancy Bergeson’s friend, Pamela Hull. “Closure for her daughter and closure for her family and closure for all of us.”

Each year in her honor, Hull and other friends hold a water-borne rose paddling parade on the Willamette.

“It’s a sad occasion,” Hull said. “We all love being together and thinking about Nancy, but it’s sad and we would love not to have to do this again.

THE LOST TIME

Forensic scientist Dr. Ray Grimsby has been to hundreds of scenes like the one at Nancy Bergeron’s home the night she died. The investigation process, he said, is different if they suspect murder.

Forensic scientist Dr. Ray Grimsby gestures how Nancy Bergeson was strangled with a soft object in an unsolved murder from 2009. Nov. 27, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Forensic scientist Dr. Ray Grimsby gestures how Nancy Bergeson was strangled with a soft object in an unsolved murder from 2009. Nov. 27, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

“There’s no question it’s a homicide they’re going to be much more intent on looking for evidence than they are if it’s a natural cause,” Grimsby said. Bergeson “was strangled with some type of soft object, a scarf or something along those lines, perhaps.”

The lost time in the investigation may be part of the reason the case remains unsolved.

“It’s difficult to say at this point if that time makes a huge difference, but I know we’d like to have it back,” Portland police officer Eric Hendricks said.

Her daughter said the initial part of the investigation was not ideal, but “you can’t go back in time and change history unfortunately. What happened, happened.”

She just wants someone who knows something to come forward. “I would beg them to come forward amd give any information that they have.”

Pamela Hull feels frustrated. “Personally, I feel that it is so rare for a murder to go this long in Portland without being solved. I just don’t know what to make of that.”

Nancy Bergeson’s mother, Marian, and her daughter visit a marker placed in a spot she loved. The marker on a rock is dedicated to Nancy Bergeson and features a quote from J. Isphodring:

“Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”

Marian Bergeson said it’s a spot where they can come and be close to Nancy. “She loved it here.”

But the possibility that clues were lost or compromised cloud the possibility of the case being solved.

“People are always going to say I wonder because we can’t think of everything,” forensic scientist Grimsby said. “That’s where the brainstorming comes in between the detectives.”

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