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Man arrested in stabbing of parents in restaurant as police probe girlfriend’s death

Vehicles sat parked in the drive way of where homicide related to a stabbing occurred in Needham. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

MILLIS — Mike Walsh was in a hospital emergency room Saturday night, being treated for wounds he sustained in a struggle with his son after the 24-year-old attacked his mother with a knife in a restaurant, when he heard there had been a fatal stabbing in Needham, he said.

Walsh immediately worried that the victim had been his son’s girlfriend, Olivia Bergstrom, whom he called “the sweetest kid,” in an interview Sunday at his home.

Soon, his worst fear was confirmed.

“We are devastated most of all for Olivia and her family,” he said in a text message to a reporter after the interview. “I can’t imagine their pain.”


Benjamin Walsh, a Millis native, faces a variety of charges in his alleged attack on his mother at Primavera, a restaurant on Pleasant Street in Millis, Michael W. Morrissey, the Norfolk district attorney, said at a news conference at Needham police headquarters Sunday.

Police are also investigating the death of Bergstrom, 20, after her body was found Saturday night in the Needham apartment she shared with Benjamin Walsh.

Walsh is scheduled to be arraigned in Wrentham District Court Monday morning on charges related to the Millis stabbing of his parents. The exact charges will be released at the arraignment, according to the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, which also said it is anticipated that the defendant will be arraigned in Dedham District Court for the Needham murder.

Mike Walsh called Bergstrom’s death and the attack on his wife a “nightmare.”

He said his elder son was out of his mind when he walked into the restaurant and attacked his mother, Laura Walsh.

“I know when Ben realized what he did last night he would be devastated,” the father said just past noon Sunday at his yellow two-story home in Millis, where he had returned after his release from the hospital Saturday night.


A sign asking for privacy was placed at the end of the Holliston driveway belonging to Bergstrom’s parents.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Benjamin Walsh has struggled with mental health issues and substance abuse, but had a good relationship with his parents, Mike Walsh said.

“This is why it’s so surprising,” Mike Walsh said. “He has a lot of respect for my wife, and he cares for her, and she’s a person he relies on a lot for support. I know she’s not a person he would ever want to hurt, and Olivia was not a person he would ever want to hurt.”

He said he preferred to not go into further detail about his son.

Mike and Laura Walsh were attending a family birthday party Saturday night at the restaurant, just five minutes from their home, he said.

Mike Walsh said that after the attack began, he tried to wrest the knife from his son’s hand, and that he and others subdued his son. Morrissey said family members tied up Benjamin Walsh and held him until police arrived.

The couple’s younger son, their only other child, then asked officers to check on Bergstrom’s well-being, Mike Walsh said.

Needham officers went to the third-floor apartment at 64 Marshall St. in Needham that the 20-year-old woman shared with Benjamin Walsh and discovered her body inside, Morrissey said.

“It is apparent she is the victim of stab wounds,” said Morrissey.

Investigators “have recovered a knife that is of interest to us,” Morrissey said, but he declined to release further details on the weapon.

Laura Walsh is being treated at a Boston hospital, where she remains in serious condition, Morrissey said. Benjamin Walsh was also taken to a hospital Saturday, and on Sunday was in the custody of Millis police, the district attorney said.


Mike Walsh said Sunday that he planned to visit his wife at the hospital later in the day and expected her to be OK. He requested privacy as his family grapples with the tragedy.

“We didn’t ask for this,” he said. “We were doing the best we can to help Ben with all his problems and we were very engaged with medical professionals. We just need space.”

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey spoke about the Millis stabbing and the Needham homicide during a news conference at police headquarters in Needham on Sunday.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Millis police had no previous contact with the Walsh family, according to Police Chief Chris Soffayer, who was at the news conference.

“The family has been lifelong residents of the town of Millis, and they’ve been held in high regard by the community,” Soffayer said.

Needham Police Chief John Schlittler said Benjamin Walsh and his girlfriend had lived in the town a short time.

“We’ve not had previous interactions with them,” Schlittler said.

On Sunday afternoon, at the end of a long driveway leading to Bergstrom’s parents’ home on a wooded road in Holliston, a sign was posted: “News media: Please respect our privacy. Thank you. Turn back.” Phone calls to other relatives were not answered.

Bergstrom had worked at Cocobeet, a juice and smoothie bar on Central Street in Wellesley, for about six months, according to a man who said he was one of the business’s owners.


“She was a really nice, sweet girl,” he said, declining to give his name.

Bergstrom was a former student at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

“We are aware of this terrible tragedy and are thinking of her family and loved ones,” said Dennis Nealon, a Wentworth spokesman, in an e-mail. “We have been following reports about the ongoing investigation, and will be communicating with the campus community regarding this sad turn of events.”

On Sunday morning, Primavera was open and offering its usual brunch options. Staff members said they had not been at the restaurant when the attack occurred there.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that were affected,” said Jerry Gaita, the restaurant’s owner.

At 64 Marshall St. in Needham, a large white van pulled into the driveway about 10 a.m. Sunday, and four people got out and entered the building.

Neighbor John Ballinger, 71, said he had seen a large police presence about 9 p.m. Saturday, and that police had stretched yellow tape across the street as officers entered the building.

Valerie von Rosenvinge said she saw many police Saturday night.

“I just went outside and spoke to one of the officers, and he said it was an active crime scene,” she said. “Whatever happened, it was terrible.”

She has lived in the neighborhood for seven years, she said, and has seen a lot of turnover in the building.

“You see people walking up and down the street, and you see the faces change,” she said.


Shortly before 4 p.m., the building’s owner, William Patsios, entered the structure with a man and a woman.

“We’re fixing the door that was damaged by the emergency workers,” he said, before walking inside.

Neighbor Nick Coleman, 24, said he didn’t know the young couple, but he had seen Benjamin Walsh come outside on cold mornings to start Bergstrom’s car for her.

“I don’t know how or why it happened,” he said. “They looked pretty happy.”

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra. John Hilliard can be reached atjohn.hilliard@globe.com. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.