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Authors: Kathryn Casey

06.Evil.Beside.Her.2008

BOOK: 06.Evil.Beside.Her.2008
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Evil Beside Her

The True Story of a Texas Woman’s Marriage to a Dangerous Psychopath

Kathryn Casey

To Linda Bergstrom for her courage and her willingness to tell her story so those who follow may be believed. And to Ashley Bergstrom—may she always remember that children are not responsible for the sins of their fathers.

Contents

Prologue

The wait, like September’s typically hot Texas weather, was stifling.

Chapter One

What attracts one person to another has long fascinated poets,…

Chapter Two

That night on the phone, James told Linda a little…

Chapter Three

Pearland, Texas, where the Bergstroms settled, was founded in 1882,…

Chapter Four

Of course, no one in the Martinez family knew of…

Chapter Five

When James arrived at Devoe & Raynolds on the following Monday…

Chapter Six

The week after James and Linda’s first date, the phone…

Chapter Seven

In January of 1986, James submitted a request for a…

Chapter Eight

In October 1986 James Bergstrom returned to Houston with all…

Chapter Nine

Linda’s initial disappointment over the apartment disappeared quickly. She discovered…

Chapter Ten

The apartment seemed empty after James left. In a strange…

Chapter Eleven

At six the next morning, Linda drove to the base…

Chapter Twelve

Linda’s prediction that the patrol would give her and James…

Chapter Thirteen

Thanksgiving came and passed. Linda roasted a turkey with stuffing,…

Chapter Fourteen

When the Ohio pulled out of Puget Sound on January…

Chapter Fifteen

A month after their hasty move, James was on patrol…

Chapter Sixteen

January 30, 1989: The Ohio pulled out of Puget Sound.

Chapter Seventeen

Wheeler was plainly worried. He had reason to be. Like…

Chapter Eighteen

The next day, all of Central Kitsap County buzzed about…

Chapter Nineteen

In his then seventeen years in law enforcement, Undersheriff Wheeler…

Chapter Twenty

As soon as she’d handed the detective the receipt for…

Chapter Twenty-One

That Wheeler and his staff hadn’t been able to charge…

Chapter Twenty-Two

After that night, all Linda’s doubts disappeared. In a visceral,…

Chapter Twenty-Three

In mid-June 1989, James Bergstrom pleaded no contest to a…

Chapter Twenty-Four

Linda and James Bergstrom’s twenty-four-hundred-mile drive back to Houston from…

Chapter Twenty-Five

At one time or another, we all make some sort…

Chapter Twenty-Six

At first, Allen Gibson, Caesar, and James Bergstrom’s other co-workers…

Chapter Twenty-Seven

In his 1992 book Out of the Shadows, Patrick Carnes,…

Chapter Twenty-Eight

It was obvious that James Bergstrom had reverted back to…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

After that October blowup, James and Linda moved out of…

Chapter Thirty

Living with James Bergstrom took an incredible toll on Linda.

Chapter Thirty-One

In the fall of 1991, doctors scheduled Gino’s wife, Benita…

Chapter Thirty-Two

“Mrs. Bergstrom,” a man with an East Texas drawl said…

Chapter Thirty-Three

In the rush from Hoggen’s unequivocal identification, Gallier had a…

Chapter Thirty-Four

Depression had toyed with Linda Bergstrom over the years, but…

Chapter Thirty-Five

By February 1992, fantasy ruled James Bergstrom’s life. The dark…

Chapter Thirty-Six

In March, Linda visited Colt Hargraves in the hospital, where…

Chapter Thirty-Seven

At 3:30 P.M. on March 16, 1992, Sandy Colyard gossiped…

Chapter Thirty-Eight

On Friday, March 20, 1992—four days after the attack on…

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Linda Bergstrom would always remember March 1992 as a nightmare.

Chapter Forty

On Sunday night, March 22, a ski-masked intruder stalked the…

Chapter Forty-One

Tonry was working a homicide investigation that Friday afternoon when…

Chapter Forty-Two

When the first newspaper account of Bergstrom’s arrest ran in…

Chapter Forty-Three

The two camps—prosecution and defense—formed quickly after James Bergstrom’s arrest.

Chapter Forty-Four

The phone rang continually in Linda Bergstrom’s apartment in the…

Chapter Forty-Five

Jury selection in the sentencing trial of James Bergstrom commenced…

Chapter Forty-Six

When the gavel sounded in Judge Walker’s courtroom the following…

Chris, Tina, James C., Irene, and Maria Bergstrom refused requests for interviews. Accounts of events and conversations involving them were principally reconstructed from interviews with Linda, James, and Adelaide Bergstrom, and public records. James Bergstrom has neither confessed to nor been convicted of any rapes or attempted sexual assaults in Washington State. The account of his confession to such crimes is as recounted by Linda Bergstrom.

In addition, some physical descriptions and names have been changed throughout this book, including Linda’s maiden name, those of all James Bergstrom’s victims, and some who played minor roles in his story: Caesar, Mack, John, Sam McDonald, Eddie Smith, Sally and Bill Rogers, Jane Richards, Penny Jacobs, Gayle Thomas, Diane Siler, and Colt Hargraves.

September 30, 1992

The wait, like September’s typically hot Texas weather, was stifling. Inside the courtroom, witnesses, victims, and reporters clustered together. Their strained murmurs reminded Linda Bergstrom of mourners at a wake. In fact, much of the scene felt funereal. Scanning the courtroom, she noticed her mother-in-law, petite, fiftyish, with salt-and-pepper hair and a heart-shaped face, huddled with her husband in a center pew. Like his son, James C. Bergstrom was slight in stature, a spare, angular man, but with a roof of white hair and rheumy-eyed behind thick-lensed glasses. Although he usually had a ramrod-straight, military bearing, this day James C. appeared stooped and tired. Linda wondered fleetingly if she was supposed to feel sorry for the Bergstroms. She didn’t.

Then Linda glanced toward the judge’s imposing bench and the narrow defense table where her ex-husband sat eerily still. Ex-husband. A reassuring designation, she mused. As she knew he would—he had throughout much of the two-day hearing—James Edward Bergstrom assessed her icily, his dark hair cut short, his hazel eyes hollows in a face ashen from six months in a sunless Houston jail cell. As she watched, a bailiff approached James, took him by the arm, and pulled him to his feet to take him to a holding cell while the jury deliberated. As he sauntered off, James grinned at
Linda, catlike. She spun away, but not before her skin chilled. It’s almost over, she thought,
almost over.

One hour passed, then another. She sat alone, shunning the television, magazine, and newspaper reporters scattered throughout the room. There had been no actual trial; James Bergstrom had pleaded guilty on five counts. What the jury deliberated was his sentence. It seemed preposterous, but the court-appointed defense attorney was asking for probation, arguing these were his first convictions and that a Texas prison would only turn James Bergstrom into an even more brutal man. “You never know what a jury will do,” the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case had cautioned Linda. Even in the guarded safety of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse, she was frightened. If James was released, she knew he would want revenge—against her.

What if they let him out?
She shuddered.
They can’t let him out.

Seated in one of the courtroom’s massive oak pews, Linda cut a diminutive figure. At twenty-nine, she had shoulder-length chestnut brown hair falling softly around large, almond-shaped eyes. She wasn’t stop-traffic pretty, but lithe and appealing with an unmistakable aura of vulnerability, detectable in her slight frown, the shy downturn of her dark eyes.

But there was another side to Linda—a flinty determination, the strength she relied on throughout the seven torturous years she was married to James. Without it, she could never have endured the endless abuse, the physical battering and its emotional and psychological carnage. But the worst was learning something so repugnant, so vile, about her husband that acknowledging it always made her stomach roil—her husband, her daughter’s father, was a rapist.

The thought of it filled her with such anger, such hatred, such confusion and humiliation, she felt her face flash hot. Once she discovered who she was married to, Linda had refused to remain silent. She would have shouted the truth from a street corner in downtown Houston, if that would
have stopped him. Laughing, James told her to tell the world. He wasn’t worried. “No one will listen to you,” he taunted. For a long time, he was right.

James C. and Irene Bergstrom were two of those she confided in. In fact, she had once brought James’s paraphernalia to their house—a rope and handcuffs, the tools of a rapist.

When the Bergstroms refused to help her, she called the Houston Police Department and warned them to be on the lookout for her husband. A dispatcher listened sympathetically, but it would be years before anyone at HPD followed up on her suspicions.
No one believed me,
Linda remembered.
No one.

Still, she kept trying. How could she not? Every time her husband left their apartment, she feared he would attack again, another woman, someone’s wife, mother, daughter, added to his roster of pain. In the end, it was Linda who endured. In December 1991, a Houston detective assigned to the sex crimes unit listened and believed. It was another three months before police had enough evidence to arrest James Bergstrom. By that time, Bergstrom himself admitted he’d raped or attempted to rape as many as thirty women.

When she finally looked at her watch, it was after four
P.M.
and the jury had been sequestered for more than two hours. Gathering her courage, Linda sought out four of her ex-husband’s victims, banded together whispering just inside the courtroom door. She felt compelled to speak to them. The women’s testimony had touched her deeply. One, a lithesome mother of two in her twenties, had the look of a cowgirl. James had raped her as her two-year-old daughter cowered in terror under a table. Another had been so traumatized the afternoon James Bergstrom hid in her apartment, tied her to her bed, and raped her that she’d spent five weeks in a psychiatric hospital. More than a year later, the frail woman in the flowered dress continued to sleep with a light on.

Once a rape victim herself, Linda recognized their pain. She hoped they could understand hers.

As if they expected Linda to join their circle, the women parted, making room for her. “I want y’all to know how sorry I am,” she said, her voice hoarse with emotion. “I wished I could have stopped him sooner. I tried.”

Just then, a buzzer sounded twice in the courtroom. The jury was in. The bailiff led a sullen and angry James back to the defense table as twelve jurors—ten women and two men—shuffled into place in the jury box. Linda searched their faces, but they were as blank as unused paper.

Hurrying back to her seat to await the verdict, Linda left the cluster of women at the door.

“Who’s that?” she heard one query softly as she retreated.

“That’s
his
wife,” whispered another. “The rapist’s wife.”

BOOK: 06.Evil.Beside.Her.2008
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