December 8, 2011

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With the sad news of the discovery of missing Signal Mountain mother Gail Palmgren’s remains last week, a large number of people around the city are being forced to look at an ugly truth: Matthew Palmgren may not have been a faithful husband, but it does not appear that he was a killer, as so many had believed and professed quite publicly.

Two days after Gail dropped her children off with Matthew and drove off in her distinctive Jeep Rubicon, he reported her missing. Immediately, the news media jumped on the story and a number of reporters began digging into the details of the Palmgrens’ life. What they found was a sad, but not all that uncommon, story of infidelity and a marriage on the rocks.

As the days passed with no sign of Gail, suspicion began to fall on Matthew Palmgren. News broke of an affair with a co-worker that led to both he and the “other woman” losing their insurance company jobs. A “close friend” of Gail’s from Alabama began mounting a one-woman media offensive in which she did her best to insinuate that Matt was responsible for his wife’s disappearance. Some of Gail’s relatives joined in the media chorus as well.

Matthew did himself no favors with his subsequent actions—an initial filing for divorce, an attempt to sell the family home, hiring high-profile lawyers (which in our scandal-loving society now seems almost to be an admission of wrong-doing)—but cooperated with every law enforcement agency that became involved.

Yet his steadfast denials of wrongdoing were either ignored or dismissed out-of-hand by Gail’s friends. They went on radio talk shows, gave television and newspaper interviews, and wrote nearly daily letters to the editor wanting to know why law enforcement was “dragging their heels” or “failing to follow up” on their concerns.

Police officials in Signal Mountain and investigators with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office did their part. They searched the homes owned by the Palmgrens, they questioned Matthew Palmgren several times, they followed up on every rumor and purported sighting of Gail. But, in spite of strong urgings from a number of people, they never arrested Matthew or even named him as a suspect, a decision that was soundly derided by many at the time.

It turns out, at least according to preliminary results from the newly discovered accident scene that local law enforcement was right. Sheriff Jim Hammond told reporters that all evidence so far points towards a tragic accident. He and his investigators are treating it as a traffic fatality, and nothing more.

The real victims in all of this, who have seemingly been ignored or outright forgotten in all the media frenzy, are the Palmgren children. They’ve lost not only their mother, but seen relatives and close family friends turn on their father, painting him as a murderer and even trying to remove them from the only parent they have left.  

What they need now is time to grieve. Hopefully all of us in the media and in the community can finally give them some peace and quiet to do so. It’s truly the only decent thing we can do.



December 8, 2011

Comments (5)

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Matt Palmgren

I am a former co-worker of Matt's in Birmingham. I can only say great things about him. He was a very nice and detailed guy that helped discuss my medications with me when i was going through my transplants in 2001. A murderer, I could not envision it.
However, I do send all my condolences for his losses and to his wife's family also. Sometimes we feel that blaming someone gives us power of closure and we lose all logic. Terrible loss for everyone!

Dea Walls more than 1 years ago

If Matt Sues his employer...

If Matt Plamgren sues Blue Cross or anyone else and I happen to be on that civil jury he is going home with a boatload of money. To the Nowacki family; I am sorry for your loss but I would like to do the church lady superior dance in your face for blaming Matt on no evidence.

Ike Conn more than 2 years ago

Everything Matt would have done would have been construed as suspious or wrong. The gossipmongers that you are would always find a negative slant because that's what you want to see. You have no idea what really happened between Matt and the authorities but je did his best to protect his children whether you care to see it that way or not.

Nancy George more than 2 years ago


"What they need now is time to grieve. Hopefully all of us in the media and in the community can finally give them some peace and quiet to do so. It’s truly the only decent thing we can do."

have you ever heard of taking your own advice? And while you're at it, don't "rush to judgment" on YOUR opinion, either.

Disinterested INYOUROPINION more than 2 years ago

Matt Palmgren

The victims are Gail and her children. If Matt is a victim then he is a victim of his own stupidity. He did not cooperate with the Police. He brought the finger pointing upon himself. I still cannot understand why he did not talk to the Police, or allow their children to do so. He also did not search for her or attend any Vigils. But he did portray her as mentally unstable and filed in Court against her. And don't rush to Judegment. The autopsy is not concluded and no cause of death released, same as the invetigation on the Jeep and the crash are still ongoing. Are you not prejudging the results by HCSO? You should practice what you preach.

Clive Bonnick more than 2 years ago

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