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Sheriff, District Attorney searching for motive in triple murder-suicide

Sheriff John Garcia said a note was recovered from Erik Bergum's vehicle and outlined a timeline of the shooting deaths.

CLARENCE, N.Y. — Erie County's sheriff and district attorney released new details on a triple murder-suicide that occurred Thursday in Clarence and Newstead.

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said Friday that deputies responded to a 911 call just after 10:30 a.m. on Oct.r 6. They were called to investigate three deaths — two women were found dead at two different homes in Clarence, and a man was killed at an outdoor shooting range in Newstead.

Sheriff Garcia said Erik Bergum, 43, first shot his wife, Mary Beth Bergum, 37, before going to a second location and fatally shooting his mother, Nancy Bergum, 64. Garcia said Erik Bergum then went to the Ten X Shooting Range on Greenbush Road where he shot and killed his father, Mark Bergum, 64. Authorities say Erik Bergum then took his own life.

Another person was at the range when the shooting happened and called 911.

Erik and Mary Beth Bergum had four children. They were at school when the killings occurred.

"I have two victim advocates from my office that are working with the school counselors from the Clarence School District and helping the children out," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.

"Right now the children are staying at a friend's house, but as the sheriff mentioned, without a lot of family in there area here, my concern is what is going to happen to these four children now."

Flynn indicated the father knew his son was going to meet him at the range but didn't have any idea his son had just committed two murders. Garcia said a note was recovered from Erik Bergum's vehicle. He didn't go into detail about what it contained but said the note outlined a timeline of the acts that were perpetrated.

"Every time I received a call, it was just gut-wrenching. When the mother was found dead. When the wife was found dead. Thank God the kids were in school. Thank God the business partner is fine," Garcia said. "It was just a very tragic family event."

Added Flynn: "We don't know how far in advance it was planned. Based upon the note that we found, at a minimum it was potentially planned (Thursday) morning. But whether or not he thought about it for two weeks or a month, that we don't know."

The district attorney said his team is still investigating a motive. None was given in the note.

"This matter is still under investigation," Flynn said. "We are trying to ascertain a motive. That's your first question here. What's the motive? Why? Why did this happen? We are still trying to figure that out. We are still trying to figure out why someone would kill his wife, mother, and father."

At a news conference Friday morning, Flynn was asked about any prior criminal history.

Erik Bergum was convicted of misdemeanor insurance fraud in 2011 and was sentenced to probation, according to the district attorney.

Garcia said Bergum had a pistol permit. He did not say what kind of weapon was used in the murders. He added that detectives are trying to determine if the same weapon was used to kill all three victims.

Erik and Mary Beth's four children don't really have any family in Buffalo. Garcia says their grandfather is on the way from Maryland to Western New York. 

Counselors have also been sent out to their schools. One of the kids' neighbors has set up a GoFundMe for them. You can donate here. 

Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church has also set up a fund for the children. 

"A number of the churches in the area have some connection to the family, and it just seemed like everybody was waiting for someone to take the lead because everybody wants to do something," lead pastor Pat Jones said. 

"You look for hope in the midst of every tragedy and the only hope we have is that God out of the depth  of all of this is going to try to bring comfort and hope to the kids eventually and to the rest of us as we try to understand it all."

To donate to the church fund for the Bergum kids, you can click here

You can also send a check to the church at: 8445 Greiner Rd, Williamsville, NY 14221. Just put "Bergum Fund" in the notes.

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