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Homicide victim found near Red River was fairly new to Fargo, wanted to explore

Phillip Dewey Bergquist, a 32-year-old man with no permanent address, was found dead at 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, near the Red River, just north of Main Avenue in Fargo.

Man gives two thumbs up while seated at a kitchen table.
Phillip Dewey Bergquist.
Submitted photo / Paul Bergquist
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FARGO — The death of Phillip Dewey Bergquist, a man fairly new to the Fargo community and with aspirations to explore, was ruled a homicide by the Fargo Police Department on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

“He didn’t deserve this, no one deserves this,” said Paul Bergquist, Phillip’s father.

Phillip, a 32-year-old man with no permanent address, was found dead at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday near the Red River , just north of Main Avenue in Fargo, police said.

The motive behind the killing, which wasn't revealed Wednesday, isn’t something that Ellie Bergquist, Phillip's mother, wants to think about.

Phillip Dewey Bergquist
Phillip Dewey Bergquist.
Submitted photo / Paul Bergquist

“I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know why,” Ellie said. “I don’t want to know how things happened ... I can't stand that. I won’t be able to visualize that in my head. He was my boy.”

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Phillip grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, and has family there and in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, according to his obituary . He moved to Fargo last spring, his father said.

“He had it in his brain that he wanted to get away from Ashland and go explore,” Ellie added.

While she originally thought that he had a place to stay when he moved, Phillip was experiencing homelessness at the time of his death due to struggles with mental health, his parents said.

“It was hard for him,” Ellie said. “When he was (in Ashland), I always gave him a place to stay.”

Phillip, according to Ellie, moved to Fargo to be closer to the hometown of his grandfather Dewey Bergquist , a former WDAY weatherman.

Phillip’s son in Ashland was someone he loved a lot, Ellie said. "He liked to go fishing with his son, (and) take him out in the woods," she said.

“He was my only brother, so I have unconditional love for him,” said John Paul Bergquist, Phillip's brother.

Phillip Dewey Bergquist
John Paul Bergquist (left), Phillip Dewey Bergquist (center) and Paul Bergquist (right).
Submitted photo / Paul Bergquist

“(Phillip) was a very smart boy, and he was very kind and very well mannered," Ellie said.

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An avid musician, he played the piano beautifully, she said.

Paul said he enjoyed tuning pianos, singing, skateboarding and bike riding.

“He was a real people person, not afraid to talk to anybody,” Paul said.

An avid letter writer, Ellie said that Phillip often wrote letters to his grandmother down in Florida.

“He was very generous, too. He would give anybody the shirt off his back,” she said.

Phillip Dewey Bergquist
Phillip Dewey Bergquist as a child.
Submitted photo / Paul Bergquist

Three people were arrested within 72 hours of Phillip's death, Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski said at a Wednesday news conference at Fargo City Hall.

George Ortiz, 38, of Fargo, was arrested on suspicion of murder; Joseph M. Poitra, 29, with no permanent address, was arrested under suspicion of accomplice to murder; and David Reyneros, 25, of Fargo, was arrested on suspicion of tampering with evidence.

Mugshots of three men who are standing against a gray wall.
From left: George Ortiz, Joseph Poitra and David Reyneros.
Cass County Jail photos

“This was not a random act of violence in any way,” Zibolski said, noting that Bergquist and the three men all knew each other.

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The case has been sent to the Cass County State’s Attorney for review, and Zibolski specifically thanked the homeless community for “significantly” helping investigators.

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