Complaint: Town of Peshtigo woman hid mom's body to collect payments

Paula Bergold. Photo: Marinette County Jail
Paula Bergold. Photo: Marinette County Jail(WBAY)
Published: Sep. 23, 2019 at 2:23 PM CDT
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A Marinette County woman has been charged with hiding the corpse of her mother in order to continue collecting money from her social security checks and dividends.

On Sept. 23 Paula Ann Bergold, 60, was charged with Hiding a Corpse, Failure to Report Death and Obstructing and Officer.

On Sept. 18, Marinette County deputies were called State Highway 64 in the Town of Peshtigo to perform a welfare check on Ruby Bergold, 89. A neighbor identified as Christy Jardeen told officials that Ruby's daughter, Paula, was "being evasive to where Ruby might be." She said Paula Bergold had also been collecting Ruby's mail.

Officers found a note taped to a door of the Bergold home that said "Ruby has gone out of town to visit some friends of ours. Paula."

"While standing outside the residence, Sgt. Miller occasionally got an odor of decay," reads the criminal complaint. Sgt. Miller witnessed packets of mothballs at each of the entry doors. The complaint says there was "a large amount of mothballs in the back of the vehicle that was parked in the driveway."

Paula Bergold arrived at the scene and insisted that her mother was out of town. She gave keys to the deputies and told them they could go inside the home and look, according to the complaint.

Officers discovered a chair covered in Borax and boxes of ammonia and bleach. They also found several bags of unopened barn lime.

However, they could not find Ruby.

Paula Bergold eventually admitted that her mother was dead and the body was in the home. She told officers that Ruby was in a tub in the basement. They thought she was talking about a bathtub. In reality, it was a small plastic tub that held the remains of Ruby Bergold.

Paula said that she didn't kill her mother. She said she had found Ruby dead in a chair upstairs--the one found covered in Borax. Paula said she wanted to call police but she "couldn't bring herself to do it."

"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. Paula said she put Borax on the chair and her mother's body due to the bad smell," reads the criminal complaint.

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 Ruby's pacemaker.

One week after Ruby's body was discovered, all of the blinds at her home remain shut and a note still hangs on the front door. It reads, "Christy, sorry to have missed you. Ruby has gone out of town to visit some friends of ours. Love, Paula."

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

"Paula said that she was concerned about the money, and that played into her decision to not report her mother's death," reads the complaint.

A neighbor said she hadn't seen Ruby since May 2019. She said she left several messages on the answering machine but no one called her back. She also called Paula, who said Ruby was "alive and fine." The neighbor requested to meet with Ruby on Sept. 6. Paula said her mother did not want to see anyone. She eventually made the call for the welfare check.

People living nearby did not want to go on camera but say they are surprised to hear such a 'tragic' and 'bizarre' case would happen in the Town of Peshtigo. They also raise questions about the role mental health may have played in this incident.

Paula Bergold was arrested on Sept. 18.

On Sept. 23, Bergold appeared before a judge via video from jail. The court set cash bond at $10,000.

Bergold's next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 7.