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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Paula Bergold Charged With Concealing Mothers Death

Issue Date: September 26, 2019

A 60-year-old Town of Peshtigo woman, Paula Bergold, of W1451 Hwy. 64, is being held in Marinette County Jail on charges of failure to report a death under unusual circumstances, hiding a corpse and obstructing an officer. Authorities believe Bergold may have concealed the death of her 89-year-old mother in an attempt to continue collecting her Social Security checks and other income.

Bergold was arrested and taken to Marinette County Jail at 3:25 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18 after Marinette County Sheriff's office investigators, responding to inquiries of a concerned neighbor, found Ruby Bergold's decomposed body hidden in the basement of her home at W1660 Hwy. 64 in the Town of Peshtigo. The neighbor had told officers that she had not seen Ruby Bergold since May.

Ruby Bergold's body was removed from the home and transported to Fond du Lac for an autopsy. Investigators identified the body through the serial number on the pacemaker.

Preliminary results of an autopsy the following day indicate death was from natural causes, according to Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve.

Paula told investigators that she had been living off of her mother's income--social security, stocks, and dividends from her father's retirement.

A Probable Cause Determination was made by the Hon. Jane M. Sequin, Marinette County Circuit Court Commissioner, at 3:21 p.m. on September 19, and the pending charges against Paula Bergold were filed on Monday, Sept. 23 by Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow.

Paula Bergold made her initial appearance by video conference before Judge David G. Miron in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1 at 3:26 p.m. Monday afternoon, with Morrow appearing on behalf of the state. Miron set cash bail at $10,000 and required the defendant to sign a waiver of extradition, have no contact with the Ruby Bergold residence, take all medications as prescribed, and not possess or consume alcohol or controlled substances without a valid prescription. Bergold was instructed to contact the public defender's office and an adjourned initial appearance was scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 7.

The charge of hiding a corpse is a felony offense that could result in a maximum sentence of 12.5 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000. Failure to report a death with unexplained circumstances is a misdemeanor that could carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and fine of up to $1,000. The charge of obstructing an officer, also a misdemeanor, could result in a fine not to exceed $10,000 and/or imprisonment of not more than 90 days.

According to the complaint filed by Morrow, neighbor Christy Jardine had called the Sheriff's Department shortly before noon on Wednesday, Sept. 18 and asked them to do a welfare check on her elderly neighbor. She was concerned because Ruby's daughter, Paula Bergold, the defendant, was not allowing her to see Ruby. She said Paula was also collecting Ruby's mail and being evasive as to where Ruby might be, and she suspected something might have happened to Ruby.

Deputy Brad Wyss had checked the residence on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 in response to a a similar call.

On Sept.18, when Sgt. Randy Miller and Deputy Fred Popp responded to the call. When they arrived at the residence Sgt. Miller observed that the residence appeared to be in similar condition to what it was on Sept. 13 when he had assisted Deputy Wyss. Two newer notes that stated, "Ruby has gone out of town to visit some friends of ours. Paula." were taped to a window and attached to each door.

According to the complaint, while standing outside the residence, Sgt. Miller occasionally got an odor of decay. In his training and experience as a law enforcement officer, he recognized this as an odor given off when someone or something is passed away and in the process of decomposition. Sgt. Miller could smell this in various areas of the yard, and he could not tell if it was coming from the residence or from the wooded area across the road, as it was windy outside.

The officers checked around the residence again, and were unable to make contact with anyone at the house. The lawn was not overgrown and had been taken care of in the recent past.

Deputy Wyss arrived on scene and assisted in checking the entire property; however, deputies were unable to locate anything or anyone. Sgt. Miller also saw that there were several newer packets of mothballs set up by each of the entry doors, this time in smaller white mesh packets. The previous time Sgt. Miller was at the residence, there were several smaller loose mothballs on the ground as well, but they had deteriorated to small pieces. He also saw that there was a large amount of mothballs in the back of the vehicle that was parked in the driveway.

Deputy Popp spoke with Christy Jardine and found out that Paula Bergold lived down the road from this location. While Deputy Popp talked with Christy, Deputy Wyss and Sgt. Miller continued to look at the residence from the outside. They observed a couple of handwritten notes on the countertop inside the residence that were not there the last time Deputy Wyss was there. There was more mail that had been delivered in the box, but nothing had accumulated for several days.

Deputy Popp then informed Sgt. Miller that Paula had not been the most cooperative with information about Ruby's whereabouts, stating that her mother had left town, but declining to say where. Deputy Popp advised that Paula was going to allow deputies entry into the house to check, but had stated that Ruby was not inside.

A short time later, Paula arrived at Ruby's residence with Deputy Popp arriving just behind her. Paula again stated that her mother was out of town visiting some friends and would not provide any contact information. Paula provided keys to enter the home and said that deputies could go inside to check, but Ruby was not at home.

According to the complaint, Deputy Wyss then opened the door and the deputies began checking to see if Ruby was inside. Deputies were unable to locate Ruby but saw several things that concerned them.

In the living room area of the home, there was a recliner chair covered up with the blanket. Underneath a blanket, there was white powdery material all over the seating area, and there was also some staining on the chair. To the right of the recliner on the carpeted floor, there was a large amount of white powdery material accumulated onto the carpet. To the left of the recliner in a short distance away there was a box of Borax. In front of the recliner there was a red-colored walker.

In checking the rooms, there were several items of clothing hanging on hangers in the closets. It did not appear that anyone had gathered any of these clothing items to pack them for an extended period of time. Deputies also observed canes that were still present in the home along with wheelchairs. There were also several pieces of unopened mail on the kitchen table.

While checking the basement area, Sgt. Miller noted multiple containers of ammonia, bleach, and laundry detergent in neatly stacked areas. Some were full and multiple others were empty. Sgt. Miller also noted several bags of unopened barn lime sitting near another area of the basement. All doors were opened and checked, but there were no signs of Ruby. While in the area of the basement that would have been below where the recliner was in the living room, Sgt. Miller could smell a faint odor of decay; however, it was not strong. Nothing was located at that time. Deputy Wyss went into the living room near the recliner to give the other officers an indication of where the recliner lined up to where they were in the basement. Deputies did not see anything on the floorboards above of any significance.

After checking and photographing the residence and not finding Ruby, deputies advised Detective Todd Baldwin of their findings and the things that concerned them. Detective Baldwin spoke further with Paula, and Sgt. Miller went over to speak with Jardine.

Jardine told Miller the last time she actually saw Ruby was in May, when she had come outside wearing a white and blue shirt with sunglasses on. Jardine believed that Ruby was likely going to a doctor's appointment, as she had a lot of them. She said Ruby normally had all of her blinds open during the day, since she really liked sunlight, but the blinds in the home had now been completely shut for a couple of months. Jardine also told the investigators that Ruby routinely had her television or radio on, and that hadn't been the case for a while now, and over the last couple of months she had not seen or heard from Ruby.

Jardine said she had left multiple messages on the answering machine telling Ruby she was concerned for her and would like to see her, but never got any response back. She then started leaving messages for both Ruby and Paula because she felt Paula would be getting them too, but again, Ruby never called her back. Eventually she left a message that she was concerned if Ruby were still alive and would like to see her if she was. Paula did call her back this time and said that Ruby was alive and fine and still living at the house. Jardine said she would like to see her on Friday, Sept. 6, and Paula said that her mother did not want to see anyone and it would upset her.

Jardine told the officers she then called Ruby's nephew, Kip, and told him what was going on. Kip then called in to have a welfare check performed, and that call would have been the one that Deputy Wyss responded to.

Jardine said on Sept. 12 she went to Ruby's house to chop down weeds and was checking around while doing so. she did not hear the TV or radio and yelled into the window to see if she could get any response from Ruby but got none. Paula then showed up and told Jardine she did not need to do yard work anymore even though Jardine had been the only person mowing the lawn.

According to the complaint, Jardine then told Paula that she was going to visit Ruby on Sept. 17, and Paula said that was okay. Jardine said when she arrived she found a note on the door, signed by Paula, that stated Ruby had left to go see some friends. Jardine stated she then really felt like something was wrong, so she called the police to have the matter checked into.

According to the complaint, Deputy Popp reported he had gone to Paula Bergold's home she told him Ruby Bergold had gone on a trip to upper Michigan and was not in the area. He asked if Paula had keys to the residence at W1660 Hwy. 64, and Paula said she did. She advised that she was power of attorney for Ruby Bergold and her estate which included the homes at both addresses. At Popp's request Paula Bergold drove herself to the home W1660 Hwy. 64 and met with Detective Todd Baldwin and Lt. Jason Ducane. She eventually told Baldwin that Ruby was dead, and her body was in the house.

Sgt. Miller then returned to Ruby Bergold's residence, and Baldwin informed him that Paula Bergold had told them Ruby had died and was in the house. Sgt. Miller went in with Detective Baldwin and Paula Bergold, who told them Ruby was down in the basement in a tub.

She pointed into an area behind a chair and another piece of furniture, and Sgt. Miller observed a smaller plastic tub with a piece of black plastic over the top. Paula stated that Ruby's body was in there. According to the complaint, Paula told the officers that she didn't kill her but that Ruby passed away. Detective Baldwin then took Paula out of the residence.

According to Detective Baldwin's report, Paula had told them that she had found Ruby Bergold dead in the chair upstairs, the chair the deputies found covered in Borax. The report states Paula said she wanted to call the police when she found Ruby, ""but just couldn't bring herself to do it. She kept thinking she would call tomorrow but never did. When her mother's body began to smell, Paula decided to get the container from the basement. She placed Ruby's body inside and dragged it down to the basement and placed it where it was found." She put Borax on the chair and on her mother's body due to the bad smell.

The complaint goes on to state that when Sgt. Miller and Lt. Ducane moved the two pieces of black plastic off the tub they found what appeared to be the back area of a human torso. There were mothball packets similar to the ones placed by the entry doors that were sitting on the floor next to the plastic tub.

Lt. Ducane obtained a search warrant for the residence and Deputies hauled the plastic tub out of the basement. It was sealed by Medical Examiner Kalynn VanErmen, after which Deputy Zach Albrecht transported it to Fond du Lac for an autopsy.

The autopsy was done on Thursday, Sept.19 by Dr. Adam Kovach of the Fond du Lac Medical Examiner's Office, with Detective Baldwin present.The body was confirmed to be that of Ruby Bergold based on the serial number of the pacemaker found inside the body.

Detective Baldwin spoke with Paula further at the Marinette County Sheriff's Office. According to the complaint. the detectives asked Paula about her mother's finances and how Paula receives money. Paula told them she has been living off of her mother's income, which was social security, stocks, and dividends from her father's retirement, and said her father had set up a trust for all the money and residences, and it was in the bank's hands. Paula said that she was concerned about the money, and that played into her decision to not report her mother's death.


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