After the death of Louise Bergen, however it may have happened, Edythe Klumpp tried to maintain an air of normality. So that evening, she went to Woodward High School to teach her regular Thursday adult sewing class, where most of the students knew her as “Mrs. Bergen.” What the students did not know is that the dead body of the real Mrs. Bergen was in the back of Edythe’s ’56 Chevy while she helped them make doll clothes.
In this deleted scene from Cincinnati’s Savage Seamstress: The Shocking Edythe Klumpp Murder Scandal (2014, History Press), we look at just how normal the evening was…
Adult Sewing Class
Carol Schwindt, one of the other home economics teachers in the adult education program, was in no great hurry to get started with her class at 7:15 as most of the women hadn’t arrived yet. They were all housewives and working mothers and tended to straggle in. Schwindt wasn’t sure how many would make it since it was the night before Halloween and there were costumes to be assembled at home.
A girl from the office came into Schwindt’s classroom asking where to find Mrs. Klumpp, who had forgotten to pick up her attendance card. She had it and wanted to give it to her. Schwindt gave the girl directions and got started with her class.
Anna Meily, a 33-year-old housewife who had just moved to Cincinnati from Chicago, was also late that night, arriving around 7:30. She came in right behind the teacher she knew only as Mrs. Bergen, who didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry and lingered in front of a bulletin board near the front door.
“I saw her coming in… and I went right on up to class and she stayed in the hallway a little bit,” Anna Meily said. “When a teacher came in (the classroom) and asked if she was there, someone said no. I didn’t pay any attention because I knew she was downstairs… so I didn’t think it necessary to say, ‘Well, I saw her’ or anything like that.”
Mary Riesenberg pegged Mrs. Bergen’s arrival in the classroom at precisely 7:30.
“I looked at the clock when she walked it,” she said. “She wasn’t there and we wanted to get started on the work and didn’t know what to do next and I was talking with a friend of mine and she said she wished she’d get her.”
“She said to bring my little girl’s doll and she would help me with the doll clothes,” said the friend, Judy Kimmey. “I was just hoping there wasn’t another teacher because we wanted her to help us with so many things, and she was going to help us make patterns for doll clothes.”
Riesenberg, who was a repeat student, jokingly scolded her: “You’re late!”
“Yeah, I had some car trouble,” Mrs. Bergen said, and they laughed about it.
Kimmey told police that they were just glad she had shown up and wanted to get right to work. They never asked her what the trouble was.
The office worker, who’d left the attendance sheet in Edythe’s classroom, came back, saying Mrs. Klumpp wasn’t in yet. She didn’t realize that most of the girls in the class knew her as Mrs. Bergen. Only the few who had had Edythe for classes in years past knew she used to be Klumpp.
Schwindt said she would be glad to take Edythe’s class, and the girl said that would probably be okay, but to stay put until she checked with the principal. A few minutes later the girl called Schwindt on the intercom and said they couldn’t reach Mrs. Klumpp.
Schwindt went to get Edythe’s students, but as she got to the classroom, Edythe greeted her at the door.
“Klumpy, they don’t think you’re in tonight,” Schwindt said. “Didn’t you check in at the office?”
“No,” Edythe said. “I was in such a hurry, I didn’t.”
“You better hurry up and get down there,” Schwindt said. “They’re concerned about this.”
Police would later interview everyone who was in the classroom that night, and the consensus among them was that Edythe arrived at 7:30 p.m., was calm and collected, did not smell of gasoline and had no scratches or blood on her.
At the class session on Nov. 13, Edythe was particularly chatty, Meily said, when one of the other students asked her if she was related to the murdered woman.
Meily said she wasn’t paying a lot of attention to their conversation, but they were sitting close to her and she couldn’t help but overhear them. She gathered that Mrs. Bergen’s husband was going to have to pay for the funeral of his ex-wife, and that her family was about to get much larger:not only would her stepdaughter be moving in with them, but Mrs. Bergen was pregnant and she was taking care of a foster child full time.
The two students chatting with Edythe were Mary Riesenberg and Judy Kimmey. Riesenberg said she also talked about the police nosing around.
“She said they went over the car with a fine-toothed comb and scraped something off the seat,” she told police. But Mrs. Bergen said she wasn’t worried about it because a little boy she babysat had gotten a nose bleed and sprayed blood all over the car.”
Riesenberg thought Mrs. Klumpp was “a wonderful person” who had brought in clothes that her children had outgrown and was a good sewing teacher. She would consider her a friend except they never did anything socially together. In fact, she and Judy Kimmey had called Edythe up during the summer to see if she would be teaching again because if she were, they would sign up for the class.
“We learned so much from her and she treated us so nice,” Kimmey said. When she or Mary Riesenberg would slip up and call her “Mrs. Klumpp” she would not answer.
“She wanted to be called Bergen,” she said. “So we did.”