The murder of Louise Bergen back in 1958 was one of the most talked about crimes of its time here in the Cincinnati area. When three young hunters came across the charred remains of a body at Cowan Lake it set into motion a chain of events that would captivate the city for years to come. The victim was determined to be 32 year old Louise Bergen, a local housewife who was also an unwilling participant in a bitter love triangle. You see, Louise’s husband, Bill Bergen was also involved with a woman named Edythe Klumpp. Edythe was a 40 year old divorcee who worked as a sewing teacher. She was also having an affair with Bergen’s estranged husband, Bill. Needless to say it wouldn’t take long for detectives to hone in on Klumpp and she quickly became the lead suspect in the case. After submitting to a lie detector test, which she failed, Klumpp confessed.
She would later tell detectives that Louise got into her vehicle to discuss the affair and a gun was accidently discharged during a struggle inside the car, killing Louise. In a written statement Klumpp also admitted to placing Louise’s corpse in her trunk and later driving to Cowan Lake to burn Louise Bergen’s remains. A timeline suggests the body remained in the trunk for a full day, with Klumpp even nonchalantly teaching a sewing class while the body deteriorated in the car. During the trial
the state also suggested that Edythe talked Bill into posing as her husband so that she could get a bank loan, but then feared that Bill’s wife, Louise, will expose her ruse.
Armed with this information Hamilton County Prosecutor C. Watson Hover charged Edythe with first degree murder. He also sought the death penalty for this local femme fatale.
After the trial, Edythe Klumpp was sentenced to death, and with a date with “Old Sparky” looming in her future Edythe changed her tune and shifted all of the blame to her lover, Bill Bergen. She claimed it was Bill who pulled the trigger and he concocted a story because he believed the court would hand down a lighter sentence for a woman. She also stated that it was all Bill’s idea with him even threatening her children if she didn’t go along with the plan.
So who was telling the truth? Who knows.
But one thing is certain, no higher court was interested in entertaining an appeal for Edythe. With that said her attorney William Hopkins met with then Governor Michael DiSalle to talk about clemency. A staunch opponent of the death penalty, the Governor launched his own investigation along with Ohio State Patrol. Governor DiSalle decided Edythe’s story which featured Bill as the shooter much more plausible and in an unusual twist he and a Doctor Milton Parker, from the psych Department of OSU, headed over to the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville where they would interview Edythe while she was under the influence of sodium amytal a.k.a. “truth serum.” In the end the Governor and the good doctor believed her story and her sentence was commuted to life and in 1971 Edythe was paroled. She would go on to marry Dennie Taylor one year after her release and live peacefully until her death in 1999 at the age of 81.
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