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Wisconsin woman admitted to keeping mom’s corpse in tub for months to collect her income; using Borax to hide smell

2019-09-26

A real-life “Weekend at Bernie’s” ended in jail.

A Wisconsin woman was charged with hiding the body of her deceased mother in a tub in her basement to keep receiving social security payments.

According to charges filed Monday, 60-year-old Paula Ann Bergold put the body of her 89-year-old mother, Ruby — who had been dead for up to four months — in a small plastic tub in the basement of her home in the small eastern Wisconsin town of Peshtigo, located some 160 miles north of Milwaukee.

She was charged with hiding a corpse, failure to report death and obstructing an officer.

According to ABC’s Green Bay affiliate station WBAY, a neighbor told police that Paula had been collecting Ruby Bergold’s mail, and that she was being “evasive to where Ruby might be.”

The neighbor hadn’t seen Bergold since May, and messages she left on the answering machine were never returned. However, Paula insisted that her mother was “alive and fine.” She requested to see Ruby on Sept. 6, but when Paula said her mother didn’t feel will and wouldn’t see her, she called for the welfare check.

When deputies arrived at the house, a note taped to the door said “Ruby has gone out to visit some friends of ours. Paula."

They also noticed an “odor of decay,” and saw a “large amount of mothballs in the back of the vehicle that was parked in the driveway,” according to the criminal complaint.

When Paula arrived, she told the officers that her mother was out of town, and invited the officers to enter the premises to verify.

When they did, what they encountered aroused even more suspicion: They found several boxes of ammonium, bleach and barn line, and also saw a chair covered in Borax, a popular mineral used as a cleaning product to get rid of stains, mold and mildew.

After being questioned, Paula admitted to keeping the corpse in a tub located in the basement.

She had been living off her mother’s Social Security, stocks and dividends from her father’s retirement, and said that money "played into her decision to not report her mother’s death,” according to the criminal complaint obtained by WBAY

“When her mother’s body began to smell, Paula decided to get the container from the basement,” the complaint read. “She placed Ruby’s body inside and dragged it down to the basement and placed it where it was found. Paula said she put Borax on the chair and her mother’s body due to the bad smell,” it said.

Bergold was arrested on Sept. 18 and appeared before a judge on Sept. 23. The court set cash bond at $10,000.

Her next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 7.