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Topic: Headline News
Gold, greed, murder ó the Bergman murders remembered after 30 years
Published Online Jan 04, 2012 - 12:05 PM
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On Jan. 6, 2012, 30 years will have passed since the Bergman murders took place at a rural home north of Gallatin.

Mark and Cheryl Bergman researching the "Bergman murders"

On Jan. 6, 1982, Hal Page shot and killed Mary Bergman, 41, and wounded two of her children, Carl, 12, and Kevin, 16. He also killed a local electrician who happened to be working there at the time, Ed Ramsbottom. Page finally turned the gun on himself.

Of Tom and Mary Bergmanís nine children, only one was not home that day. Mark was close by, in Gallatin. The father of the family, Tom Bergman ó who reason would suggest was the primary target of the killing spree ó was much further away. He was at a job in Costa Rica.

"It didnít really hit me until last July 2010, when my wife passed away," Mark said of the trauma. "It was the first time I ever really cried."

Mark has since remarried a girl he first met when he was growing up in this area. He and Cheryl now live in Grandview where Mark is a certified building inspector.

Mark has been writing a book about his familyís tragedy. He calls it "Gold, Greed and Murder."

"The title is the only way I could explain what happened," he said.

He hopes talking about the murders on this 30-year anniversary will help heal some of the wounds that still exist in Gallatin.

"I think the town of Gallatin regretted us," he said. "It wasnít ill will. Everyone was just in shock."

The Bergmans had moved to Gallatin only about six months before the murders.

Before that, they lived in Smithton, Mo. Thatís where the story begins.

"Iíd love to make Hal Page out to be a monster," Mark said. "Maybe that would help us all deal with what happened."

Only Hal Page wasnít a monster. At least, not that anyone who knew him could tell.

The Bergmans lived between Hal Page and his brother Ken Page, a successful pig farmer, for two years at Smithton. Hal and Kenís father had owned all three properties before the Bergmans bought the middle property from him.

"Thatís how Hal got interested in what we were doing, which was preparing to go to Alaska," said Mark. "He was home from college and married. Hal latched onto the idea of gold mining."

The father of the family, Tom Bergman, was a graduate of General Motors School of Engineering. He designed and produced mining equipment. Mark often oversaw work at the mining sites, although he was only 18. Mark had been home-schooled and had been working and traveling with his father for years. He was trained in welding and electrical since childhood.

"Dad had a built-in help," he said.

Mark was upset when his father hired Hal to help with their mining operation in Alaska.

"He was a greenhorn; he didnít know anything about what we were doing," said Mark.

Before Mark left for Alaska in 1981, the Bergman family moved from Smithton to Gallatin into a home Mark helped remodel.

Mark worked in Alaska with Hal through the summer and fall of 1981. There were four men at the gold mining site. Mark, Hal, a foreman, and another hired hand.

"We all lived in a one room cabin, the four of us," said Mark. "It was eight foot by 20 foot long. There were no windows. I worked with Hal hand in hand."

Mark didnít have a particularly high opinion of Hal, but he didnít dislike him either.

"I never got along with Hal that well," Mark said. "Iím a tradesman. He was a college graduate."

Hal wasnít self-motivated, but heíd do what he was asked. He had a tendency to daydream a lot. The other men did not trust him to drive a bulldozer.

"We had him run the pump," said Mark. "Even then, I had to throw rocks at him to get his attention sometimes. But other than spacing out, he acted fine. He didnít drink or do drugs. He was a very straight guy."

Mark recalls that he and Hal often played chess in the evenings. When Hal was angry at being beaten, he would knock the chess pieces off the table.

Still, such a flash of temper doesnít reveal a psychotic personality.

"It doesnít show emotions that come with taking someoneís life," said Mark. "Hal knew us. Yet that evening of the murders, he didnít say a word, not a word. He just started shooting. What gave him the motivation to kill people? No clue. They donít wear a sign that reads ĎIím a psychopath.í"

Another thing Mark remembers Ö Bears sometimes wandered into the camp and left behind their paw prints. Hal wore a .44 magnum pistol around for protection.

"Dad gave him that .44 magnum as part of his payment for his efforts that summer," said Mark. "Heíd had it all summer long. He took a liking to that gun."

That gun was one of the guns Hal would later use to murder Mary Bergman.

By September, the work at the gold mine was done. The men loaded their haul of 25 to 30 gallons of gold "concentrate" into barrels and onto a modified trailer. Concentrate, Mark explained, is all the gold and heavy metals collected from the sluices.

The highway out of the mining area was rough. The paving had heaved from the thawing and freezing. Mark was not with them on this trip. One of the other workers, the foreman, was driving. Hal was a passenger. There was a wreck. Hal was thrown clear and had only minor injuries. The foreman suffered a broken back and was in a coma for several days.

Two people passing by offered to help clean up the concentrate which was scattered all over the road. Hal helped them clean it up. They had to borrow the equipment and it took hours. The two others promised to take the gold to a nearby town and call 9-1-1 when they got there.

"They never called, not even 9-1-1," said Mark. "The gold was gone. Stolen. Everything was lost. That was all our profit, possibly a million plus in gold. All of the equipment and vehicles ó destroyed."

Over the next few months, Mark and his father took off to Costa Rica to set up another mining project. At some time that winter, Tom Bergman flew home to celebrate the holidays. Then he flew back to Costa Rica and he and Mark switched places. Mark flew home to be with the family for Christmas.

So Mark was staying at the farm home in Missouri when he got a phone call from Hal between Dec. 16-18.

"Hal started to tell me dad owed him $20,000," recalls Mark. "I said, ĎFor what?í He said he wanted $20,000 or else. I said, ĎOr else what?í"

Hal believed Markís father had sold the mining claims in Alaska without giving Hal a cut. Mark tried to convince Hal that it never happened. Mark owned claims himself and he had not signed a quit claim deed. He couldnít get Hal to believe him, so he turned the phone over to his mother and left the house.

The next day Mark asked his mother what Hal had said.

"She said she didnít know what Hal was thinking," Mark recalled. "He demanded money. Mom told him dad was in Costa Rica but he would be back for Christmas. Which he was, but then he flew to Costa Rica again."

Where did Hal get the notion the claims had been sold? Mark thinks a rumor began in Sedalia.

"A lot of investors involved were from Sedalia," he said. "He got psyched out by somebody. The people in Sedalia were upset, sour. What do you do? Itís gold mining. But Iíd like to clear that up. We didnít owe Hal any money."

Gold mining is risky business and no wages were ever promised Hal. Mark said he made only $350 in wages from the Alaska venture.

As further proof that the claims had not been sold, Mark confesses to a youthful prank while in Alaska. On a dare Mark ran a bulldozer over federal ground near the mining site, tearing things up. The Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Mining Association shut down the Bergman mining site until the ground was replanted. Tom Bergman was fined $10,000 and the site placed on a one year moratorium. Tom flew to Alaska and re-planted the ground in peat moss to meet the conditions. But Markís point is, under the moratorium, no mining claims could have been sold.

Were there any other communications between Hal Page and the Bergman family that winter? Maybe.

Mark said his brother Kevin claimed Hal visited the farmhouse once. Nobody else in the family saw him there. But Mark thinks it is probably true.

"Hal knew exactly where we lived the day of the shooting," he said. "So he probably had come up before."

January 6, 1982.

The area had received between six to eight inches of snow. A misty rain had turned to ice on top of the snow. It was bitterly cold.

The Bergman house sat on a loop. There were two ways to get there. One way was past a cemetery; the other way was called a Ďhigh roadí where the pavement ended and turned to gravel. The Bergman house was the last house on this road.

The family had finished dinner and the evening chores.

Mark left to go into Gallatin to play arcades at a youth center. He took the high road.

"It must have been almost simultaneous that Hal turned into the cemetery road," said Mark.

Hal couldnít get his two-wheel drive pickup up the steep, icy hill. He stopped and got out and walked.

Hal Page met Ed Ramsbottom, the electrician, and Kevin Bergman, who was helping Ed, on the front porch. He killed Ed and wounded Kevin. Mary Bergman, the mother, came to the front door. Page killed her, too. He entered the house through the side door at the kitchen.

Katrina, then just 14, hid behind a chair in the sitting room. The oldest of the children, Cathy, 22, grabbed seven-year-old John and ran from the house out the front door. There was an infant downstairs ó Danny. The other four children ran upstairs. Page fired up the stairs, hitting Carl in the back.

Page went back outside.

"Cathy stashed John in a horse trailer and covered him with hay and horse blankets," said Mark. "Then she jumped the fence and ran down through the fields. She was headed to our closest neighbor. Hal must have followed her footprints in the snow. Itís amazing he didnít open the horse trailer. Maybe he caught a glimpse of Cathy and that distracted him."

The Gallatin Police Chief at the time was Dale Cox.

"Kevin always called Dale Cox ĎMr. Coxí," Mark said. "Thatís how Dale identified who made the phone call to the police. Because all Kevin said was Ďthereís been a shooting at the house and heíd been shot.í That was it. But Dale knew exactly who it was."

The police arrived at the Bergman home in quick time.

Hearing the approaching sirens, Page ran to his pickup. He backed out and got stuck at a low water bridge.

Mark was in the arcade when the police officers found him. They took him to the "dispatch house," which was close to the old jail. They asked Mark if he could identify a blue and white Chevy truck. The description instantly brought Halís truck to Markís mind and he told the police as much.

"I could hear the dispatch radio in the background," Mark said. "I knew something was going on. Finally, they told me there had been a shooting at my house. They told me my sister Cathy was down and some of my brothers. I freaked and ran for the door to get home, but they held me back."

In answer to more questions, Mark told the officers his father was in Costa Rica. Everyone else was home. Could he get hold of his dad?

"I said sure, probably, but itís a third world country," said Mark. "Somehow I remembered the number. I donít know how I remembered it. This was before cell phones. I called and left a message with the head of the mining group. They got hold of dad and dad called back. Dad said heíd be right there."

Those hours were a daze to Mark at the time. Heís not sure when it was all pieced together. He found out later it was his mother, not his sister, who had been killed.

Years later, one of the paramedics at the scene would talk to Mark about that night.

"The paramedic apologized," said Mark. "When they found Mom they assumed she was dead because her injuries were so massive. She had been shot in the neck and chest. But when they came back, mom still had a pulse. The paramedic said she was sorry. But they couldnít have saved her anyway."

In a bizarre twist to an already bizarre night, the dispatch microphone was open when Hal Page shot himself.

"I heard somebody say it three times Ö he shot himself," said Mark. "But I didnít know who had shot who. Then the mike went dead. They realized they had it open. When they called back, they said it was the guy in the truck."

Mark thinks many people donít realize that Hal didnít die right away despite the gruesomeness of his injuries. Mark claims he died in the hospital.

As Mark recalls, later that same night he went to the Cameron hospital where his brothers had been taken. Kevin and Hal were in the same room in ICU.

Kevinís shoulder wound had been patched up and he was alert and talking.

"Kevin said the minute he sat up, Hal saw him and closed his eyes and died," said Mark. "Iím like, ĎWow, okay.í"

Carl was also in ICU in the next room. His injuries were much more serious and he was in a coma.

"Carl had all kinds of tubes coming out of him. He was hooked up to all kinds of machines," Mark said. "I passed out on the floor. It was pretty horrific."

Later that night, Cathy gathered the children up and they stayed at Pat Bakerís house. They wanted to avoid the media.

The day after the next, the family went back to live at the house. Gracious friends and neighbors had come in the day before and cleaned up their motherís blood that had covered the kitchen floor.

Although the blood on the floor had been wiped away, things did not ó could not ó go back to normal for the Bergman family.

Mark threw himself back into his work.

"I didnít look at the casket; I didnít go to the viewing," he said. "I wanted to remember Mom the way she was."

Mary Bergman was president of the National Association of Home Educators. Only months before her death, her work with home schooling was featured in a regional television news magazine called PM Magazine. This show in turn was set to be telecast nationally.

That morning on Jan. 6, 1982, Mary had been in Independence testifying in a court case about home schooling.

"She came back and she was in a good mood," said Mark. "She was dressed really nice. She was preparing supper and planned to spend the evening with her children. Thatís how I remember her."

On a recent visit to Gallatin Mark met a niece of Ed Ramsbottom who told him the death of her uncle was not his fault.

"I told her I realized that, but I was still really sorry," Mark said. "I wish I could express how sad my family has always felt about Ed Ramsbottom."

After all these years, Mark still has no idea what caused Hal Page to go on a shooting rampage.

"Iíve had 30 years to think about it," he said. "And I still donít know."

After his one time venture in Alaska, Hal went back to live on the farm in Smithton, and something snapped.

"He felt heíd been wronged," said Mark. "Maybe the bills were piling up. I donít know why heíd think he had no future. He had a college education. He had family he could rely on. Iím sure he felt he had just been left behind. Heíd gotten close to our family. Then suddenly the house sold and we were gone."

Still, Mark contends, those things donít drive you to kill people.

"This is America; you sue," he said. "If you have a legitimate claim, you take people to court. You donít murder them."

Over the last 30 years, the Bergman family has moved on with their lives.

Cathy, (22 at the time), the oldest of the children, lives in Quebec, Canada, with her husband, and been a management consultant for the past 25 years.

Mark

Kevin (16 at the time) was the boy working with Ed Ramsbottom, who got shot in the shoulder. "His life really changed," said Mark. "He was quite a handful. He grew up to be an advocate against guns. He also runs a non-profit charity organization." Kevin still owns mining claims and lives in Alaska.

Katrina (14 at the time) witnessed everything and Mark said, "She had a lot of turmoil, but sheís solid now." She lives in Idaho. She has two daughters who are now young teenagers.

Carl (12 at the time) was the boy who was shot in the back. He went into the Navy and was honorably discharged. He received his bachelorís degree in business administration. He is married with two young children and is now a high school teacher in Texas.

John (10 at the time) was the little boy stashed in the horse trailer. "John told me that our stepmother had to teach him how to use a knife and fork again," said Mark. "He would forget things completely. He had a lot of blocking." John and his wife Lynn live in Utah. John is an independent contractor with a family of five.

Joshua (six at the time) works in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a large company.

Molly (four at the time) married two years ago and now has a new baby girl. She lives in North Carolina.

Danny (two at the time) was the infant. Heís about to get his bachelorís degree with an emphasis in law. Heís studying to become a professional paralegal. He lives in Utah.

Tom Bergman, the father, has since remarried and lives with his wife Pam in Nevada. He still has regular contact with his children.



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