Police reopen case of Virginia woman’s disappearance

Police reopen case of Virginia woman’s disappearance
There are three unsolved “cold case homicides” in Harrisonburg. One of them happened almost 40 years ago, when 20-year-old Kelly Bergh-Dove was abducted while she was working overnight at a gas station. (Source: WHSV)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — There are three unsolved “cold case homicides” in Harrisonburg.

One of them happened almost 40 years ago, when 20-year-old Kelly Bergh-Dove was abducted while she was working overnight at a gas station. All these years later, Harrisonburg police have officially reopened the case.

“It’s been a long 38 years,” says Rachel Bergh, Kelly’s mother. “This year has been harder for me. I usually cope with it. And you know, it bothers me. But this year [on the anniversary of Kelly’s disappearance], I cried all day.”

38 years of a family, putting together the pieces of what happened the night Kelly disappeared, without a trace.

“We started out that it was an abduction,” said Lt. Hubert Myers in an on-camera interview with WHSV in 1982. “We’re still staying with that.”

After nearly four decades, the story has stayed the same.

“Realistically, are the hopes dimming at this point?” said a WHSV reporter off-camera in the video from 1982.

“No sir, they’re not,” said Myers. “We will find that woman, sooner or later at someplace.”

New investigators, but not much movement. But this year, thanks to a pair of fresh eyes, Harrisonburg Police Department has officially reopened Kelly’s case.

“We don’t have a lot of these types of cases in Harrisonburg,” says Det. Brooke Wetherell with Harrisonburg Police.

After graduating from Turner Ashby High School, Kelly and two of her sisters worked at the former Imperial gas station, along South Main Street in Harrisonburg.

“They didn’t have a problem working overnight, none of them did,” said Elaine Bergh, Kelly’s younger sister.

On the night of June 17th, 1982, Kelly had switched shifts with her sister. The gas station was busy that Thursday night, but she made time to call and chat with her mother.

“Then we said goodnight, see you tomorrow,” says Rachel. “I guess I was the last one to talk to her.”

But that wasn’t the last time Kelly picked up the phone. Just before 2:30 that Friday morning, she called police more than once.

“She makes a 9-1-1 call and she speaks with a dispatcher, and basically just asks for the police to come by and check on her,” says Det. Wetherell.

In that emergency call, Kelly mentions the gas station received what she called an “obscene phone call.” She said a man, who was previously in the store was quote “dressed improperly,” and she stated she saw him driving through the parking lot. In another call made a few minutes later, the tape skips. But Kelly told dispatch he was back and he was driving a “silver-colored ford.”

“I could tell in her voice that she was really scared,” said Elaine, referring to when she heard a recording of the call.

By the time police got there, Kelly was nowhere to be found. Her belongings were left untouched.

“I remember being awoken by my mom’s voice and I thought I was dreaming at first,” says Elaine. “I wake-up and the next thing I hear is Kelly’s gone.”

Once her family arrived, Kelly’s younger sister Elaine described the scene as unorganized.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the department now because they aren’t the same people,” she says. “But back then, we were not happy at all.”

Now, nearly 40 years later, Det. Brooke Wetherell can’t physically go back in time, but she’s using old reports and evidence to find new leads.

“Police work was different then,” Det. Wetherell says. “Dispatch times were different then. Response times are different then. The city was made up different then. It starts and it ends within like, 15 minutes. And that has been 15 minutes that has been stretched out into every individual second for decades, now.”

She says Kelly was not the only person to go missing in Virginia during that time in the early 80′s. In the years around when Kelly was abducted, there are records that other gas station attendants called police and reported instances of indecent exposure.

“We don’t have anything to suggest that she specifically was targeted,” says Det. Wetherell.

While police dig deeper, the family continues to keep her memory alive. Kelly’s sister, Elaine, describing her as a fun and happy young woman and was scrappy when she needed to be.

“When we lived in Virginia Beach, we were in a rec center,” said Elaine. “She was wearing one of those tube tops and this boy came up and jerked her shirt down. And she punched him. If someone bothered her, she would speak her mind. She would defend me to the teeth.”

Elaine says Kelly has made her brave. After all these years, she and her family just want closure.

“I know it won’t bring Kelly back, but as far to know that that person is off the streets and we laid her to rest and we know where she’s at, it would feel amazing,” says Elaine.

“It would mean peace,” says Rachel.

This is where the family and police need your help. Detective Wetherell says there’s an important piece of the puzzle they’re missing. She asks if you were in the area or have any information about what happened the night Kelly disappeared to call Harrisonburg Police.

Even the smallest memory you have could be that missing piece to finding who was behind this and to finally give the family a sense of peace all these years later.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.