Slain federal public defender fought her attacker

Slain federal public defender fought her attacker

PORTLAND, Ore. – Federal public defender Nancy Bergeson fought back and struggled against whoever strangled her to death that night in her Southwest Portland home in November 2009.

That fact was an important new detail detectives in the case revealed Wednesday to stir up new tips in their effort to solve the case.

The afternoon of Nov. 24, Bergeson was found lying facing down in her dining room by a girl who walked her golden retriever.

There were no signs of forced entry and the items inside the home appeared to be in order. On Bergeson's laptop was the tax fraud case she'd just lost. Her friend, Colleen Scissors, said Bergeson was mad about that. She said they'd been emailing just the night before, around 10 or 11 o'clock.

Detectives have asked Scissors not to share what specifically they were corresponding about.

Initially, the deputy medical examiner who came out to Bergeson’s home thought she'd died from natural causes. It wasn't until later in the autopsy it became evident Bergeson had been murdered. But by then whatever crime scene was at her home, and the evidence in it, had been compromised.

It was a mistake downplayed by Portland Police Bureau homicide Detective Michele Michaels on Wednesday, who said she would not assume it had prevented them from solving the case by now.

"I think that you would have to be God sitting up above to know everything about it to know whether or not it affected anything. It may not have affected anything," she said.

The deputy medical examiner, who initially determined Bergeson had died from natural causes, is still employed with the Multnomah County Medical Examiner's office.

Friends and former colleagues of Bergeson said Wednesday she was relentless in her pursuit of justice and tough on the police and prosecutors on the other side of the aisle.

Scissors said that Bergeson would even be tough on police in her own murder investigation.

"She'd say to the Portland Police Bureau, 'Get your butts going and solve this murder.' And I know they are, but that's what she'd want. She'd want the kind of effort that they are putting into it, because she wouldn’t want this to be let go," Scissors said.

For Bergeson's friends to know now that she fought her attacker, it's what they had believed about her all along. She would not have gone down without a fight.

"She cared about life," said Lisa Hay who worked with Bergeson. "She would have done everything to stay alive. She loved her daughter more than anything, and for her to be gone for her daughter, she would've fought to stay on this earth."  

There is a $1,000 Crime Stoppers reward for information leading to an arrest in Bergeson's murder.

Anyone who has information regarding Bergeson’s homicide case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (503) 823-HELP (4357) or Detective Michaels at (503) 823-0692 or Detective Steed at (503) 823-0395.