UPDATE OCTOBER 15, 2012
The Florida Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution for John Errol Ferguson, who was scheduled to be executed next Tuesday in Starke, Florida. According to a USA Today report, the stay was issued to “allow for review of testimony in an evidentiary hearing into Ferguson’s competence, based on documents shared by the court.”
Ferguson’s attorneys are arguing that he should not be executed because he is mentally disabled. They maintain that their client has been examined by several court-appointed doctors and specialists and has been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, including hallucinations.
The evidentiary hearing into Ferguson’s competence is being held by the Circuit Court for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, and the court’s order is due by Friday at 4 p.m.
Ferguson received the death penalty in two Florida state cases in which he was convicted of a total of eight counts of first-degree murder. Six of those counts stemmed from his first trial, which dealt with events that took place in Carol City, Florida in July 1977. The second trial, which involved the other two murder counts, addressed crimes occurring in Hialeah, Florida in January 1978.
1. The Carol City Murders
On the evening of 27 July 1977, Ferguson, posing as a Florida Power and Light employee, received permission from Margaret Wooden to enter her home. After checking several rooms, he drew a gun, tied and blindfolded her, and let into the house two men who joined him in looking for drugs and money. About two hours later, six of Wooden’s friends, including the homeowner, Livingston Stocker, came to the house and were searched, tied, and blindfolded by Ferguson and his accomplices. Shortly thereafter, Wooden’s boyfriend, Michael Miller,entered the house and also was bound and searched. Miller and Wooden eventually were placed in the bedroom, and the six other bound friends were in the living room. At some point, a mask on one of Ferguson’s friends fell and revealed his face. At the time, Wooden and Miller were kneeling on the floor with their upper bodies sprawled across the bed. Wooden heard shots from the living room, saw a pillow coming toward her head, and then was shot. She witnessed Miller being fatally shot as well. Wooden did not see the shooter, though she did hear Ferguson run out of the room. She managed to escape and ran to a neighbor’s house to call the police. When the police arrived, they found six dead bodies, all of whom had their hands tied behind their backs and had been shot in the back ofthe head. Only two of the victims, Wooden and Johnnie Hall, survived. Hall testified at Ferguson’s trial about the methodical execution of the other victims.
2. The Hialeah Murders
On the evening of 8 January 1978, Brian Glenfeld and Belinda Worley, both seventeen, left a Youth-for-Christ meeting in Hialeah, Florida. They were supposed to meet friends at an ice cream parlor, but never arrived. The next morning, two passersby discovered their bodies in a nearby wooded area. Glenfeld had been killed by a bullet to the head and also had been shot in the chest and arm. Worley was found several hundred yards away under a dense growth. All of her clothes, except for her jeans, were next to her body, and she had beenshot in the back of the head. An autopsy revealed that she had been raped. At trial, there was testimony that she had been wearing jewelry, but none was found with the bodies. The cash from Glenfeld’s wallet, which was found in Worley’s purse near her body, also had been removed.
On 5 April 1978, police arrested Ferguson at his apartment pursuant to a warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in connection with the Carol City murders. At the time of his arrest, police found in his possession a .357 magnum, which was capable of firing .38 caliber bullets, the same kind used to kill Glenfeld and Worley. The gun was registered to Stocker, one of the victims in the Carol City murders. At some point after Ferguson’s arrest, he confessed to killing “the two kids,” i.e., Glenfeld and Worley