Riley Berg sentenced to life in prison for jogger murder, eligible for parole beginning in 2053

Riley Berg Sentencing

MADISON, Wis. — The man who has struggled with his mental health for years and admitted to killing a Navy veteran at the side of a rural Dane County road will not have the possibility of parole until the summer of 2053, a Dane County judge ruled Thursday.

Riley Berg, 23, pleaded guilty earlier this year to first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Nicholas Day, a Navy veteran who was jogging along the side of a rural Dane County road in January 2020 before being shot and having his neck cut. Authorities called it an “extremely brutal homicide.”

Berg was arrested about a month later after an extensive investigation. The two did not know each other, according to authorities.

“Here I think the most compelling question for everyone is why,” Judge Josann Reynolds said during the sentencing hearing Thursday. “Why did this happen? And I’ve heard it from both sides and everyone who has spoken, the why is so profound. I guess the only one that really knows the why is Riley Berg and either he cannot or will not offer an explanation, other than it is out of character for him.”

Berg pleaded guilty in February after two years of competency hearings and mental health treatment, which delayed a potential trial multiple times. He was twice deemed not fit to stand trial in the years since the murder and was ordered to receive psychological treatment. Berg’s father previously told investigators his son had battled schizophrenia for years, including being hospitalized in 2017.

While Berg’s defense noted his medication suppressed his emotions, Judge Reynolds said she still did not see any sign of contrition from Berg at any point in the process.

Under Wisconsin state law, Berg was given a mandatory life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree intentional homicide, but Judge Reynolds could determine whether he ever would receive the chance to ask for parole. Prosecutors had asked the judge to order Berg to serve at least 30 years before being eligible for parole, while Day’s family had asked the judge Thursday to not offer the opportunity for parole.

In the end, Judge Reynolds ruled Berg will not be eligible to request a hearing for parole until July 13, 2053. The eligibility does not mean Berg will be released from prison, only that he will have the opportunity to have a judge consider it. Day’s family will be notified if Berg ever applies for release.