Court Documents Show Peter Bergna is Broke

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At one point, Peter Bergna was a wealthy art appraiser living in an Incline Village mansion that was paid off. Today, he's serving a life term in prison for the for staging the crash that killed his wife. And after going through two trials, he is flat broke.

According to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, he had $11 in his checking account, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported on Thursday.

His assets total $11,822 worth of goods, including used clothes and furniture, an old laptop computer and a $10 fishing pole, the petition says. He owns no real estate, and as an inmate at Lovelock State Prison, he has no income, according to the August filing.

"If he gets out of this, he's going to be starting over from scratch as though he was a 24-year-old kid," his lawyer, Richard Cornell, told the paper.

Bergna, now 50, owes $866,601 to a list of creditors, including several banks for credit card purchases, and a loan from Butterfield's, a San Francisco-based auction house that specializes in the sale of fine art and antiques, the records show.

The largest debt is an unpaid loan for $800,000 from the Patricia Bergna Trust. Patricia Bergna is his mother.

Bergna was convicted in June 2002 of the first-degree murder of his wife, Rinette Riella-Bergna. She was 49 when she died while trapped inside Bergna's pickup as it plunged off a Sierra cliff June 1, 1998.

He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 20 years. His first trial ended with a hung jury.

Bergna claims he was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the window, escaping harm. He blamed the crash on faulty brakes. He has appealed his conviction and the full Nevada Supreme Court has agreed to hear his case.

His fiancee, Robin Russell of Seattle, paid the $1,200 in lawyer fees and the filing fee for the bankruptcy petition.

Cornell said the house sale covered part of his fees and now he is being paid by a third party whom he did not identify.