‘Several’ persons of interest identified in death of Wisconsin prosecutor in Micronesia

Rachelle Bergeron

YAP, Micronesia — Government officials on Monday, Oct. 21 announced the identification of “several” persons of interest in connection with the shooting death of a prosecutor from Wisconsin.

Friends said Tuesday, Oct. 15 that lawyer Rachelle Bergeron planned to soon return to the U.S. after a challenging stint prosecuting criminals on the Pacific nation of Micronesia, but she was shot and killed as she returned home from a run with her dog. Bergeron’s husband was inside the couple’s house Monday night, Oct. 14 baking brownies with a local child the couple was helping care for when somebody fired three shots at Bergeron as she pulled up and opened the back of her Subaru hatchback, killing both her and her dog, said one friend, Amos Collins.

The killing shocked the tiny island of Yap, home to 11,000 people, where Bergeron served as acting attorney general of Yap State.

The following statement was issued by government officials Monday, Oct. 21:

“On behalf of the Yap State Government Leadership, Governor Henry S. Falan would like to thank the investigating team which consists of Local Authorities and external partners for their hard work, seamless collaboration, and unrelenting 24/7 teamwork spent focusing on the investigation into the murder of Acting Attorney General Rachelle Bergeron over the last week.”

“We can now report that they have completed the initial phase of the investigation and have progressed to an intermediate phase that has resulted in the identification of several persons of interest.  As they work in a coordinated and orderly manner toward the next phase of concluding the investigation with an arrest and, ultimately, a conviction, we would like to thank the community and citizens of Yap for your contributions to the investigation, cooperation with the authorities and your prayers.”

“We will issue the next statement when there is more news to report. In the meantime, thank you for your support and patience as the investigation team diligently continues its work.”

Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap in 2015 to take a job as assistant attorney general. She had previously worked in Washington D.C., New York and India.

The Federated States of Micronesia, located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia, has close ties with the U.S. under a compact of free association and the U.S. dollar is its primary currency.

Collins said Bergeron’s husband Simon Hammerling called him a few minutes after the shooting at 7:15 p.m. and he arrived about the same time as the police.

Bergeron had been shot in her upper leg and her upper chest and was unconscious, Collins said. He and a nurse used a blanket to move Bergeron onto his flatbed truck and they drove to the local hospital.

Yowbalaw said Bergeron was pronounced dead on arrival at Yap Memorial Hospital.

Collins said that he doesn’t know who shot Bergeron but that some of those she had prosecuted might hold grudges. He said he considers Yap a safe place and doesn’t lock his car or worry when walking about at night.

The Small Arms Survey, a Swiss nonprofit that analyzes gun ownership statistics, estimates there are 700 guns total owned by the civilian population of Micronesia, which numbers 104,000 people.

Collins said Bergeron had a passion for fighting for justice for those who had been abused, especially women and children. Her husband is a pilot with Pacific Mission Aviation, a Christian missionary organization in the region where Collins also works.

Another friend, Julie Hartup, who lives in nearby Guam, said the couple was about to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary and hoped to start a family soon.

She said she had joined the couple and their families in July for a celebration of their marriage, when they re-took their vows. She said Bergeron’s father gave a speech about how his daughter had always wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, and to give strength to those who didn’t have it.

“Her family came out for a couple of weeks, and she was showing them the island, how pretty it was,” Hartup said. “It was quite joyous for everyone.”

But she said Bergeron was feeling the strain of her new role, which she had taken on in January, and was eager to return home.

Hartup said it was hard to believe what had happened to her friend.

“She had a fun laugh; she loved her dogs; she loved going running; she really cared about the community,” Hartup said. “She was trying her hardest to do the best job she could, and ultimately somebody took her life for being so good at her job.”

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