Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Point of No Return: The Case of Peter Bergna

One More Night

Rinette Rielle-Bergna was belted into the passenger side of the nearly-new 1997 blue Ford F-150 truck as her husband, Peter, maneuvered the roads near the east Bowl of Slide Mountain at the Mount Rose Ski Resort outside Tahoe, Nevada.  She might have worried that it was midnight on that first day of June in 1998.  She certainly was exhausted and perhaps wondering why Peter insisted on bringing her here rather than taking her right home to Incline Village.  She had been in Italy over the past six weeks on a work-related project and Peter had just picked her up at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.  At age 49, she was more inclined to get some rest than look for a romantic view, and she had been traveling for many hours.

Peter and Rinette Rielle-Bergna
Peter and Rinette Rielle-Bergna

But Peter had suggested they go to one of their favorite overlooks, off State Road 878, which took them toward the resort.  He apparently wanted to discuss the fact that her new career took her away too much and he wasn't happy. He really disliked being alone.  In fact, one of the contentions in their eleven-year-marriage was that they had not had children.  He had wanted them and Rinette had not.  As the adopted son of a powerful California DA, Peter had developed a strong need for attention, so Rinette had made a list recently of the things she could do to improve things between them.  But she had also recently taken this job and she loved the travel.  She even considered buying a condo in Italy.

Rinette might have wondered why Peter was so overdressed that evening.  He wore jeans, a jacket over his shirt, a baseball cap, and he even had on a pair of gloves.  He mentioned that it was a cool night, although she was comfortable in very light attire and he never reached for the knob to turn on the truck's heater.  In fact, he rode with the driver-side window rolled all the way down.

As Peter pulled up to a place to get out and smoke one of his beloved cigars, they were in the midst of a heated conversation, which included exploring  the possibility of divorce. Rinette supposedly capitulated, saying she would reduce her time on the road so she could be home more with him, although she was apparently not happy about it.  Still, marriage was compromise and she had already done several things that had upset Peter.  For one, she had kept her last name when they married, hyphenating it to his and subtly signaling her independence.  He wanted to know she was totally committed.

What she did not know was the Peter seemed to have a plan.  He wanted to drive to a spot that overlooked the city lights, where he had been just the day before.  He didn't tell Rinette that part, however.  He also did not reveal that he had two five-gallon plastic containers of gas in the back of the truck, unsealed, with parts of their caps missing.  Should they tip over, they would leak their contents.

Rinette went along for the ride, happy to be back in the pretty Tahoe area, despite the unpleasant conversation they'd just had.  But she was never going home again.

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