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Billings man charged with killing his mother; family says mental illness was key factor

Bergman family
Jonah Bergman
Posted at 8:41 AM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 11:05:19-05

BILLINGS — There’s always more to a story than initial reports and details documented in court records. The story of a mother allegedly killed by her son at her Billings Heights home last week is an example.

The Bergman-Cook family is reeling in pain. Not only for the loss of their mom, but for the tragic facts that led to this situation and left their youngest brother behind bars.

Micah and Isaiah Bergman flew into Billings from Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, just four days after their youngest brother, Jonah Bergman, 29, allegedly stabbed their mother to death in their home.

Cynthia Cook, 67 years old, raised all three boys in the home at 1222 Claim Jumper Lane.

“She was a loving caring mom,” said Micah Bergman, the eldest of the boys. “She was always there to make you laugh.”

Jonah Bergman was arrested Saturday after Billings police said they received a complaint of him acting strangely at a Heights convenience store. According to court documents, he had blood on his shirt, which prompted police to head to his home and discover the body.

He allegedly confessed to the crime to police, according to charging documents. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Yellowstone County District Court, but only after Judge Jessica Fehr denied his initial request to plead guilty.

Micah told MTN News that Jonah, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, didn’t start showing signs until he was 19 or 20 years old.

Isaiah said, “He told me he just can't remember the little boy he was.”

The brothers describe Jonah as energetic, positive, and always wanting to be around his big brothers. But Micah said today, that’s not the case. “Who he is now is not the Jonah we knew.”

The family said the last 10 years his illness has eaten away his mind, as the family struggled to find a safe place or effective treatment.

In and out of the state's psychiatric hospital, Warm Springs, other medical facilities and jail, a broken system left their mom to care for her son.

“She was a mother first before she was anything else,” said Micah, “and she couldn't see her son on the streets, no matter what condition he was in. So (she) was willing to take him back to eat, a roof over his head, warm clothes and not be alone on the street dealing with his mental illness.”

As they now try to sift through this tragedy, these brothers say mental health is a serious problem in this country and it shouldn't be stigmatizing.

They say Jonah was asking for help. Isaiah said Jonah took himself to the hospital twice in the last couple months. “We just hope it doesn't happen any other families because like I don't want anyone to ever have to go through this.”

The story, said Micah, “is a lot deeper and a lot more tragic than it reads on paper.”

Because it's true. There's no love as deep as the love of a mother.

A GoFundMe account has been created to assist the Bergman brothers as they work through this tragic situation.

Fundraiser for the family of Cynthia Cook

After the Bergmans sell their mother's home, they plan to pay forward the generosity.

Charitable donations in the same amount will go toward supporting those with schizophrenia, treatment, and research.