SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On June 11, 1995, Bernadean Klingenberg was found dead in the bedroom of her West Valley home by her husband, Keith. Her death was ruled to be suspicious at the time but no leads were established and the case went cold.
Now, 28 years later, Keith Klingenberg, now-68, faces a first-degree murder charge in connection to her death.
Keith Klingenberg called 911 just after 1 p.m. on the afternoon of Brenadean’s death and reported she had committed suicide by cutting her own throat. When paramedics arrived, about seven minutes after the initial call, they found Bernadean dead on the scene.
According to charging documents, Klingenberg told detectives he had been playing softball on the day of his wife’s death. He said when he came home, he found his wife upstairs with two knives next to her and immediately called 911. Klingenberg reportedly performed CPR, just as the dispatcher instructed, but otherwise didn’t disturb the scene.
West Valley Police Department eventually closed the case, ruling it as a “suicide,” though noted the death as suspicious. In 2016, the case reopened as a homicide investigation.
Bernadean’s daughter was reportedly interviewed by police twice, once in 1995 and again when the case was re-opened in 2016. In both cases, charging documents say she told police that her mother was planning on leaving Klingenberg and that she was not suicidal.
Detectives said they noted several inconsistencies within Klingenberg’s story and allege Klingenberg tampered with the scene to make it appear as though it was suicide.
According to charging documents, Klingenberg reported his wife was unconscious during the 911 call but also said she was trying to fight him to get up. Charging documents also allege Klingenberg left the room once paramedics arrived and asked no questions about her condition and made statements that were “inconsistent” with what paramedics saw on scene.
Paramedics reportedly said Bernadean’s blood was coagulated and she had likely died several minutes before they arrived, as opposed to her having died while they were on their way to the home.
A blood splatter analyst also re-examined photographs from the scene, reporting the blood patterns do not match Klingenberg’s statements at the time of his wife’s death.
The blood splatter analyst alleged the blood splatter on Bernadean is more consistent with homicide and not suicide. The analyst further alleged Klingenberg straddled Bernadean around the time of her death, as opposed to attempting to assist her. Blood was also reportedly found in the bathroom, matching signs of a clean-up despite no evidence of Bernadean entering the bathroom after slicing her throat and Klingenberg saying he did not go into the bathroom.
At the time of her death, a doctor with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner noted 10 stabbing and incising injuries on Bernadean’s neck and torso. The doctor said the stab wounds went through a “pre-existing incision” in the neck, requiring “a degree of control unlikely to be present during a suicidal act.” According to the doctor, there were also several incisions on her palm and fingers suggesting she was being defensive and that the arrangement of injuries could be interpreted as homicidal.
The medical examiner reportedly classified the manner of death as “undetermined” saying that further investigation was pending.
“Although twenty-eight years is a long time to wait for justice, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office will always seek justice for victims. We hope this helps Bernadean’s loved ones begin to find a sense of closure in her death,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. “We’d like to thank our partners at the West Valley City Police Department for helping ensure we have the necessary evidence and information to prosecute this case.”
An arrest warrant was issued for Keith Klingenberg on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
West Valley Police are also asking for anyone in the public who may have additional information regarding Bernadean’s death, to call 801-965-5200, or email email@example.com.
Charges are allegations only. All persons are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.