In Harrisonburg, Virginia, Kelly Bergh Dove worked at the Imperial gas station on South Main Street. Dove, a soon-to-be wife and mother of a 4-year-old daughter, had finished high school ahead of schedule and had enrolled to start college in September at Blue Ridge Community College.
The Imperial Station, which at the time was the lone building perched on a remote stretch of road about a mile south of the James Madison University campus, employed each of Dove’s three sisters. Dove decided to switch shifts with one of her sisters and take on the duty of working the nocturnal hours on the evening of Thursday, June 17.
The 20-year-old Kelly Dove was discovered diligently working the graveyard shift at the gas station as June 18, 1982, approached. Kelly disappeared without a trace at some point during the evening, but not before reporting a number of troubling instances of mistreatment to the local police.
Kelly contacted the police shortly after midnight and informed them of the erroneous phone solicitations she had received. She pleaded with the authorities to check on her welfare, but regrettably no help was provided. Kelly then made a second call to the police, this time to report the harassment she was experiencing from a male customer, alleging that he had exposed himself in an inappropriate way. Kelly called 911 for the third time at 2:30 AM, citing yet another lewd phone call, out of fear. She also related how the same client had abruptly parked his gleaming silver Ford in the lot.
At some point, the police decided it would be wise to find out Kelly’s condition. Sadly, Kelly had disappeared by the time they got to the station, which was just two minutes later. There was no sign of struggle or theft, but her purse was still lying there. The police came under fire for their slow response, showing up at the station only after Kelly had made three 911 calls. In the wake of her mysterious disappearance, they also failed to secure the location or gather fingerprints. Kelly’s family has always believed that someone from her high school days who has a history of troubling behavior and inappropriate telephone communications might be responsible for her disappearance. However, this person has never been directly connected to the mysterious circumstances by any hard evidence.
After being formally pronounced dead in 1989, seven years had passed with no word on Dove’s whereabouts. No one has been accused of anything in connection with her puzzling disappearance, and her remains have eluded discovery. Investigators looked into a large number of people as potential suspects, but the mystery surrounding her disappearance is still frustratingly unsolved.
The phenomenon of Kelly Dove’s absence has persisted for more than three decades. The most moving aspect of her story may be how she worked that particular night in anonymity, largely going unnoticed after trading shifts with her sister.