Serial killer whose victims included Frederic woman, put to death
BONNE TERRE, Mo. - A white supremacist serial killer, whose estimated 20 victims included a Frederic woman, was put to death early Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, was executed by lethal injection in MIssouri, the state’s first execution in nearly three years. Franklin confessed to fatally shooting Rebecca Bergstrom of Frederic in 1980.
Bergstrom, 20 years old at the time of her death, was hitchhiking in Monroe County when Franklin gave her a ride - and then allegedly shot her after she told him she had dated a Jamaican man. Bergstrom’s body was discovered on May 3, 1980 in a park in Tomah, Wis.
The Frederic community was stunned to learn of her death. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lester Bergstrom, Rebecca was a lifelong resident of Frederic and a 1977 graduate of Frederic High School. She was working in Madison and was believed to have been on her way home to spend the summer with her parents following a vacation in Florida and Jamaica when she was murdered. Her last communication was with a friend in Eau Claire who said Rebecca had planned to stop there on her way home.
Franklin targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980. He was executed at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Mo. His killing spree was ended in 1980 when he was arrested in Florida for the Salt Lake City killing of two black men the racist had spotted jogging with white women.
Franklin has also been tenuously linked to other crimes, including bank robbery and possibly bombings. He confessed to the shooting of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine’s Larry Flint.
He garnered multiple life sentences and was incarcerated on Missouri's death row for the murder of a Jewish man outside a synagogue. - Gary King with information from KARE11.com and CNN.com