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Cold Case Spotlight

Missing persons case of Virginia mother Kelly Bergh-Dove remains unsolved 36 years later

The Bergh family had a busy household in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Parents Fred and Rachel raised three daughters, one son and one foster child there together, so there was never a dull moment.

Youngest daughter Elaine told Dateline she was closest with the sister she shared a room with, Kelly. Elaine said Kelly was two years older than she was, and made her feel fearless.

“She never backed down from a challenge, and would try things out such as roller coasters,” Elaine recalled. “She made me ride my first one. I was scared, but she gave me the confidence I needed to take on the [ride].”

Kelly Bergh-Dove Elaine Bergh

In 1977, when she was only 15 years old, Kelly got pregnant. She and the baby’s father, Dale Dove, got married and moved into a new home together. The Doves’ house was about 20 minutes from Kelly’s family’s house, and Elaine said she kept in close contact with them.

“I would spend the weekend with her almost every weekend,” Elaine told Dateline.

Kelly and Dale’s daughter, Tami, was born in December of 1977.

Kelly’s mother Rachel told Dateline that a few years after Tami was born, Kelly decided she wanted to enroll in classes at the local community college, so she could one day make a better life for her daughter.

Rachel says she gave Kelly some money to pay for school but said Kelly was saving on her own, too, from her job at the Imperial gas station in Harrisonburg. By now, Kelly was 20 and worked at the gas station with three of her sisters: Deb, Rose and Elaine. Elaine told Dateline that Kelly felt safe working there because her sister Deb was a manager at the station.

On June 17, 1982 -- three days before Father’s Day -- Elaine says she remembers she’d been fighting with one her siblings. Upset, Elaine went to Kelly for comfort.

“I remembered hugging her, after she made me laugh, like she always did,” Elaine recalled. “I hugged her and said, ‘Love you, Sis. I'll see you this weekend.’”

Elaine never saw Kelly again.

That night, Kelly was working the overnight shift at the gas station, her mother Rachel told Dateline. Kelly was brave, Rachel said, so being the lone employee working overnight didn’t frighten her.

Rachel called the gas station around 11:00 p.m. to check on her daughter.

“I called her and she was busy. She called me back,” Rachel said, adding that it didn’t seem like anything was out of the ordinary when she finally did speak with her Kelly.

But things took a turn in the early morning hours of June 18. Family members told Dateline that at 2:27 a.m., Kelly called the Harrisonburg Police Department to say a man was hanging around the gas station, and that he was “improperly dressed.” It’s still unclear what she meant by this, but Kelly’s mother Rachel speculates that the man flashed Kelly and she did not want to say it on the phone.

Two minutes later, she called the police again, according to family. This time, she asked if police could come to the gas station to check on her. Kelly told police the man had called the gas station from outside and was saying obscenities to her. She said he was on the gas station property, driving a silver Ford, according to Rachel.

Family said that at 2:31 a.m., Kelly placed a third and final call to police. She again reported that the man was lurking around the gas station. Police say she then pleaded for them to help her.

Captain Dan Claytor of the Harrisonburg Police Department confirmed Kelly called police multiple times that night. He did not provide the specific times of the calls, but confirms she was worried about a strange man.

Police arrived at the scene shortly after Kelly’s third call to them. When they arrived, Kelly was nowhere to be found.

“Nothing [in the gas station] was disturbed. It was as if she just walked out,” Capt. Claytor told Dateline. Police then called Kelly’s family to tell them what happened.

“I remember being woken up,” Elaine told Dateline. “My mom said, ‘They can’t find her. We need to find her.’”

Elaine says she and her family raced to the scene as soon as they got the call.

“And I remember going into the field behind the store, seeing if anything was back there,” she said.

But Kelly was not in the field behind the store. No one has seen or heard from her since.

Rachel would later listen to her daughter’s 911 calls to the Harrisonburg Police Department. Rachel said she could hear the fear in Kelly’s voice increasing in the recordings.

“In each phone call, she was getting a little bit more scared,” Rachel said.

Thirty-six years later, Harrisonburg Police consider the case cold but continue to follow up on any leads they receive, according to Capt. Claytor. He said they have had people of interest, but have never had sufficient evidence to charge anyone in relation to Kelly’s disappearance.

“Given the phone calls, we don’t believe she left voluntarily,” Capt. Claytor told Dateline. He says he hopes with new DNA technology, police will be able to crack the case. He could not comment further to protect the integrity of the case.

After Kelly’s disappearance, Tami’s father Dale gave full legal custody of Tami to her grandparents, Fred and Rachel, who had offered to raise her. Tami was five years old when her mother went missing. She now has two sons of her own. Elaine told Dateline that Tami prefers not to speak about her mother, but other members of Kelly’s family won’t stop their search.

Kelly Bergh-Dove top row, second from right with her family. Elaine Bergh

“This man took away a sister, daughter, mother and my best friend,” Elaine told Dateline. “He took away her future, her chance to have more children, and to enjoy being a grandma to two amazing little boys. It’s been 36 years next week, and I never knew I could miss her more today than I did when she first went missing.”

Rachel says she has spent countless days and nights searching the Harrisonburg, Virginia area for her daughter.

“I just want closure. That's my big hope -- that we would find her. But now I don't know,” she said.

Kelly Bergh-Dove would be 56 years old today. When she vanished, Kelly was described as being 5’1” tall, weighing 105 lbs. and having brown hair. If you have any information on the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s disappearance, please contact the Harrisonburg Police Department (540) 434-2545.