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A Stranger in the Night

A stranger is a person who is unknown to another person. Because of this unknown status, a stranger may be perceived as a threat until their identity and character can be ascertained. A stranger is commonly defined as someone who is unknown to another. Since individuals tend to have a comparatively small circle of family, friends, acquaintances, and other people known to them. Out of all the people in the world, the vast majority of people are strangers to one another. This story highlights such, when a stranger emerges and is unknown to another but is it conceivable this stranger is known to others.

First, I would like to thank Elaine, the sister of Kelly for speaking with me. Elaine was eager to share memories she holds close with her sister as well as the details of her disappearance. Although decades have passed since her sister vanished, Elaine believes answers are close. She wants for nothing more than to find out what happened to Kelly before her parents pass. The family has waited long enough for answers and closure to a night that changed their family forever.

The Bergh children

Kelly Bergh Dove was born to her parents Rachel and Ernest on August 30, 1962. Growing up in Virginia with five siblings, with Kelly fitting right in the middle. The family household was a full house. After many years together, Rachel and Ernest went their separate ways. Rachel now a single parent, wanted the best for her children and she was determined to provide for her family. While waitressing Rachel met the love of her life, Fred Bergh. To Fred laying eyes on Rachel, was love at first sight. The two quickly hit it off. Rachel and Fred married in 1971, and Fred adopted her children, giving them the Bergh name. Elaine explained how complete their household was when Fred entered the picture. “Fred is my dad.” Living in Virgina Beach Fred wanted a quieter environment to raise the family, somewhere opposite from the growing city. In 1975 the Bergh family moved to Bridgewater, Virgina.

When Kelly was thriving in her teenage years, she met a boy through mutual friends Dale Dove. Dale was quite a bit older than Kelly, by about five or six years. Despite the age difference Kelly and Dale quickly fell in love and Kelly became pregnant at sixteen. Kelly and Dale married, a social norm, now that they were going to be parents. The pair welcomed a baby girl, Tami. Tami was the apple of Kelly’s eye, and she was excited to become a mother even though she was still only a teenager. Kelly took to motherhood quite well and graduated high school early, as education was important to her. The couple shared an apartment and things were coming together for them. Although the couples’ marriage was not perfect, they were married for five years and lived under the same roof with their four-year-old daughter.

Kelly and her daughter Tami Jenine

On June 18, 1982, Kelly was working the overnight shift at Imperial gas station located at 2141 South Main Street in the City of Harrisonburg. Dove's sisters also worked there; oldest sister Debbie was the manager. She worked there with sisters, Rose, and Kelly, who were hired as clerks. Kelly switched shifts with her sister Rose, who intended to work that night. A very unassuming moment in time that would unfortunately change the course for the rest of their lives. During Kelly’s shift, she called the Harrisonburg Police Department to report a male customer was harassing her. She explained to them that she was working alone and asked the police to check on her. A short time later, she called the police again and stated a man had come into the gas station and was "dressed improperly." It has never been made clear, but most believe this man could have been exposing himself to her. At 2:30 a.m. Dove called the authorities for a third time, this time, sounding frightened. She said the man was back and he used a pay phone outside the gas station to call her and make obscene comments. She said he was driving a silver or gray vehicle, possibly a Ford, and asked the police to send someone to help her. There was a shuffling noise, then the line went dead.

Imperial gas station

Current day, empty lot where the gas station once stood.

In reports, authorities stated they arrived at the gas station only two minutes after the phone call was dropped. The store was empty with no one in sight. Kelly’s purse, a magazine she'd been reading were left undisturbed on the counter, and a cigarette had burned out in an ashtray. There were no indications that the store had been robbed, no signs of a struggle and no clues as to what happened to Kelly. Kelly’s parents were notified a couple hours after, the family rushed to the location. To their surprise the gas station was fully open with customers walking in hoping to purchase items and gas. No evidence was gathered from the scene as officers deemed it too troublesome to take prints, with having to narrow down one from many that could be left in one area. These frustrations would continue, but a suspect would emerge. If the police report is accurate, this man only had a short time window to abduct Kelly. Her family thinks whoever took her must have been armed with a weapon. Kelly was described as small but feisty. She would typically not back down if she thought she was in danger.

Composite of suspect. Did you know this man in 1982?

The same day Kelly was abducted, a tip came in at a nearby convenience store. The lady working there described a suspicious looking man driving a gray stopped in the store, this was approximately 30 minutes before Kelly’s last phone call to police. This is where the famous sketch of a suspect comes into play. The female worker described the man as early to mid-twenties, with shoulder-length blond hair. It was eerily common for local women working at gas stations or convenient stores late at night to get obscene phone calls. However, the calls stopped almost entirely after Dove disappeared. Since that fateful day in 1982, there has only been a few suspects but only one has never been ruled out. Although this suspect has never been named publicly, he did have a record of indecent exposure and making obscene telephone calls. Luckily some items were recovered shortly after Kelly’s disappearance and stored for future investigative analysis.

Dwayne Parnell. 2008. (News link below)

Tragically, Kelly was just the first loss for the family. Kelly's brother Dwayne Parnell lost his life in 2008 to senseless act of violence. Through it all the family has fought to bring Kelly home and has held vigils in her name.

40th anniversary vigil

What happened to Kelly Bergh Dove during her night shift at the Imperial gas station on June 18, 1982? Investigators believe the crime against Kelly was one of opportunity and she was not specifically targeted. Somone in that community decided to take advantage of a young mother working alone. Kelly's family believes this man was a stranger to Kelly but, not to everyone she knew. Thirty minutes prior to her abduction a strange man was witnessed at local convenience not too far from Imperial, was this the same man that took Kelly? If so, is it possible he could have been making the obscene calls to Kelly from here? The most frustrating part of this case falls greatly on the Harrisonburg police department. Why did it take Kelly making three different phone calls to police for them to finally arrive on scene? It is noted that in between each call there was a gap in time, and she did not make these calls back-to-back. In my research the police department is not too far away from where the Imperial once stood. One minute could have made all of the difference in Kelly’s tragic story. Decades have passed, new investigators have fresh eyes on the case. Let’s pray for the Bergh family in hopes the new year will finally bring Kelly home and the stranger in the night will be brought to justice.

If you have any information regarding the disappearance and abduction of Kelly Bergh Dove, the time is now to come forward. This young mother had her whole life ahead of her. She was simply working her shift and was senselessly taken from her daughter and her family. The person who committed this crime has never been caught, it is very possible he has done this again or will, in your community.

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