The husband of an American prosecutor who was murdered on the tiny Pacific island of Yap has told how she feared for her life and slept with a machete under her pillow.
Rachelle Bergeron, 33, was shot three times on Monday as she returned home from a jog with one her dogs on the tiny Micronesian island where she lived with her husband, Simon Hammerling.
She was a prosecutor there and had told her husband she feared for her life because her job was so dangerous.
Police are yet to find her killers, and her husband says he believes she may have been targeted because of her work.
In an interview with Good Morning America on Thursday, he choked back tears as he described the ‘impact’ she had on the community.
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Simon Hammerling (left in an interview on Thursday) said his wife Rachelle Bergeron feared for her life on the island of Yap and that she slept with a machete under her pillow. She was shot dead on Monday
‘She really impacted the community, she’s got a lot of friends here,’ Hammerling said.
He told police he was inside their home baking brownies when he heard gunshots outside.
‘I heard gunshots, three shots, really loud. I didn’t see any of the shooter and stuff. I saw Rachelle and our dog dead… I just kind of fell by her, not really thinking anything else,’ he said.
He emerged to find his wife lying on the ground outside next to their dog, which had also been shot.
ABC reports that he told them she often ran with her dog because she did not feel safe doing so alone and that she slept with a weapon under pillow.
‘She really loved justice… there was another side that would be taking it personal. She was my wife, I loved her very much and I miss her already,’ Hammerling said.
The pair were about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. They had plans to return to the US and start a family.
Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap (above) in 2015 to take a job as assistant attorney general. She had previously worked in Washington, New York and India
According to a US Department of State 2019 Crime and Safety report , serious or violent crimes in Micronesia are incredibly rare, however there are regular reports of petty crimes against travelers
Bergeron and her husband were due to celebrate their first anniversary soon. They had plans to leave Yap to return to the US and start a family
Now, she will be laid to rest in a traditional ceremony on the island.
Her body will then be flown back to the US where her parents will bury her.
FBI Agents will now fly to the Federal States of Micronesia to assist in the investigation Bergeron’s murder, who was acting as the Attorney General of Yap State.
The killing has shocked the tiny island of Yap, which is home to just 11,000 people.
In a statement, Governor of the state of Yap, Henry S. Falan, said the island’s ‘spirit is broken’ by the news of Bergeron’s death.
‘Today marks a tragic day in our history. We are under the watchful eyes of the world. It is with great sadness that I report the death of Yap’s acting attorney general, Rachelle Bergeron,’ Falan said.
‘On behalf of all the citizens of Yap, both here and abroad, I offer our united heartfelt condolences to her husband, her family and friends, and colleagues. Her loss will be greatly felt by all who knew her.
‘Yap’s spirit is broken by this senseless and heinous act.’
Bergeron was from Wisconsin and first moved to Yap in 2015 to take a job as assistant attorney general. She had previously worked in Washington, New York and India.
She and Hammerling were just days away from celebrating their first wedding anniversary when she was killed.
The Federated States of Micronesia, located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia, has close ties with the U.S. under a compact of free association, and the U.S. dollar is its primary currency.
According to a US Department of State 2019 Crime and Safety report, serious or violent crimes in Micronesia are incredibly rare, however there are regular reports of petty crimes against travelers.
Collins said Bergeron’s husband called him a few minutes after the shooting at 7:15 pm and he arrived about the same time as the police.
Bergeron had been shot in her upper leg and her upper chest and was unconscious, Collins said. He and a nurse used a blanket to move Bergeron onto his flatbed truck and they drove to the hospital.
Collins said that he doesn’t know who shot Bergeron but that some of those she had prosecuted might hold grudges. He said he considers Yap a safe place and doesn’t lock his car or worry when walking at night.
He said Bergeron had a passion for fighting for justice for those who had been abused, especially women and children. Her husband is a pilot with Pacific Mission Aviation, a Christian missionary organization in the region where Collins also works.
Another friend, Julie Hartup, who lives in nearby Guam, said the couple were hoping to start a family soon.
She said she had joined the couple and their families in July for a celebration of their marriage, when they retook their vows. She said Bergeron’s father gave a speech about how his daughter had always wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, and to give strength to those who didn’t have it.
‘Her family came out for a couple of weeks, and she was showing them the island, how pretty it was,’ Hartup said. ‘It was quite joyous for everyone.’
But she said Bergeron was feeling the strain of her new role, which she had taken on in January, and was eager to return home.
Hartup said it was hard to believe what had happened to her friend.
‘She had a fun laugh; she loved her dogs; she loved going running; she really cared about the community,’ Hartup said. ‘She was trying her hardest to do the best job she could, and ultimately somebody took her life for being so good at her job.’
A GoFundMe has been set up by Bergeron’s family to help with funeral costs.
‘We grieve with Simon in his terrible loss and pray that he will have strength through the loss of his best friend and the person that had brought him so much joy and true happiness,’ organizer of the fund, Joe Adams, wrote.