Oregon Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Killing Assistant Federal Public Defender

Christopher Alexander Williamson admitted to the 2009 killing of 57-year-old Nancy Bergeson in her home in Southwest Portland

Photo: Portland Police Bureau

A 29-year-old Oregon man pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter Thursday for the home invasion murder of an assistant federal public defender.

According to the plea agreement with prosecutors, Christopher Alexander Williamson admitted to the 2009 killing of 57-year-old Nancy Bergeson in her home in the Bridlemile neighborhood of Southwest Portland. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

He also pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary for breaking into Bergeson’s home.

The Multnomah County District Attorney said Bergeson’s family was satisfied with the sentence because Williamson has a genetic disorder, and his life expectancy is less than 10 years.

“Nancy Bergeson is remembered as a devoted mother, a passionate defense attorney and a trusted friend to many,” said Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill in a press release obtained by PEOPLE. “We know Nancy’s enthusiasm and passion continues to inspire those who knew her.”

Bergeson was found dead in her home around 3 p.m. on Nov. 24 after she surprised Williamson and his accomplice, Justin Joseph Panek, who had snuck into her home. According to the Oregonian, which cited public records, the victim died after being put in a chokehold.

Williamson was arrested in January 2019 after Panek, who was in jail on a unrelated crime, was caught on tape admitting to his role in the murder to a fellow inmate, the Oregonian reports.

“Panek laughs and says that he and his homeboy killed that (expletive),” Washington County sheriff’s Detective Robert L. Rookhuyzen wrote in the affidavit, the Oregonian reports.

Christopher Alexander Williamson. Portland Police Bureau

Panek told the inmate that his grandfather was a neighbor of Bergeson’s.

Bergeson’s daughter, Jamie Lyon, described her mother’s killing as “senseless.”

“Being here in a courtroom, I’m struck by another angle of this tragedy: Clients no longer get her. She protected you against the system. She gave you a chance. She fought for you as if you were family,” Lyon said in a statement, obtained by The Oregonian. “And it’s so damn sad that the people who took her life were the exact type of people she was so committed to helping.”

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“To be fair to her, I am going to try and forgive,” Lyon said. “She would tell me to not waste any time or emotion on the defendant and instead go love (the) hell out of my daughter and family. So Mom … even though it’s really hard … that’s what I am going to do.”

Justin Panek
Portland Police Bureau

On Friday, Panek, 28, was sentenced to 10 years for burglary for his role in the slaying. After he was sentenced and leaving he courtroom, he turned and addressed Bergeson’s family.

“To all those people who knew Nancy, I know she was a beautiful lady,” he said, according to the Oregonian. “Nothing I’m going to say is going to justify my actions. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that and I’m sorry.’’

Lawyers for Panek and Williamson could not be reached for comment.

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