The random murder of a 46-year-old former horse trainer at a Minnesota resort last week shocked the tiny town of Nisswa with its senselessness, but police now say the victim was probably not even the real target.
Bethany Bernatsky had only moved in at the Cozy Bay Resort a few weeks before she was gunned down last Thursday. But it seems the tranquil spot was dangerously close to a tense, domestic drama unraveling across the street.
The accused gunman, 26-year-old Cameron J. Moser, had reportedly been harassing the resort’s former owners, who also happened to be the family of his ex-girlfriend.
According to Bret Jevning, who now owns an RV park right across from the resort, Moser was “mistaking [Bernatsky] for my daughter” when he allegedly shot her, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard confirmed Tuesday that investigators are looking into the possibility that the killing was a case of mistaken identity, calling it “one of the scenarios that we are working on.”
It was not immediately clear why Moser would have been targeting his ex-girlfriend, but Jevner told the Tribune that Moser had come by the RV park looking for her and appeared to be upset that she stopped using drugs—presumably one of the reasons for their breakup.
“He was taunting her by using [drugs] himself,” Jevning was quoted saying, adding that Moser “was angry because we weren’t giving him access to my daughter.”
A criminal complaint written by Crow County investigators also notes that Moser had previously been in a relationship with the daughter of the former owners of the resort, and that he had visited the Mollie Lake RV Park a week before the shooting in search of his ex-girlfriend.
Moser was arrested following a dramatic standoff with police outside the resort, after authorities say a 911 call about gunfire led authorities to a rifle-toting Moser and, as they later discovered, a fatally wounded Bernatsky on the floor of her resort cabin. Moser is currently behind bars with a $1 million bond, and his next court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20. He faces a charge of second-degree intentional murder.
Bernatsky is said to have strongly resembled Moser’s ex-girlfriend.
The two “look similar. They have the same body structure, height, and hair color,” Bernatsky’s brother, Ben, told the Star Tribune.
Bernatsky had apparently been well-known in the world of horse training, with her former employer, Liston Training Stables, praising her for her “very gentle, almost ethereal approach to training.” Her Facebook page is full of photos of herself smiling broadly as she rides horses, with some showing her during her performances at a Medieval Times in Southern California, where she previously worked.
“She was a savant in the horse world,” her brother said.
She had reportedly been planning to stay at the resort through the winter. Instead, her family is now preparing for her funeral, all because Moser, her brother says, “killed the wrong person.”