Orange County judge charged with murder in wife’s slaying
Soon after pulling a handgun from his ankle holster and fatally shooting his wife, prosecutors say, Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson alerted his staff that he wouldn’t be taking the bench at the Fullerton courthouse to handle the next day’s calendar.
“I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody. I’m so sorry,” the judge texted his clerk and bailiff, according to documents filed late Thursday by the Orange County district attorney’s office.
The documents provide the clearest picture so far of the case against the 72-year-old judge, who has been charged with murder.
He was arrested on Aug. 3 after his adult son called emergency dispatchers to say that his mother, 65-year-old Sheryl Ferguson, had been shot in the couple’s Anaheim Hills home.
The judge was taken into custody, spent one night in jail and posted $1-million bail.
On the evening of the slaying, according to papers filed by prosecutors, Ferguson and his wife got into an argument over dinner at a restaurant, where he threatened her “by making a hand gesture indicative of pointing a gun at her.”
The argument continued when the couple returned home, where Sheryl Ferguson said, “Why don’t you point a real gun at me?” or something similar, prosecutors said in the court papers.
The judge, intoxicated, pulled a Glock .40-caliber pistol from his ankle holster and shot her in the chest, the bullet exiting her back and hitting the wall behind her, prosecutors said.
The judge’s son, who called 911 and tried to perform CPR on his mother, said his father had been drinking too much, prosecutors said.
The judge himself later called 911 to say his wife needed a paramedic, but when asked if he had shot her, he said he didn’t want to talk about it, prosecutors said.
Ferguson smelled of alcohol and was still wearing the empty ankle holster when police took him into custody, prosecutors said.
He asked officers to shoot him, according to prosecutors, and made remarks that were captured by police body camera: “What an ass— I am,” “Oh, man, I can’t believe I did this,” and “I guess I’m done for a while.”
Police took a sample of the judge’s blood to measure its alcohol content seven hours after the shooting, by which time it measured 0.06%, below the legal limit for intoxication, according to court papers.
Ferguson’s son told police that his mother had once talked the judge out of shooting himself, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors will ask the court to impose additional bail conditions on Ferguson. Among their concerns: a missing rifle.
Though Anaheim police confiscated 47 firearms in a search of the judge’s home, plus more than 26,000 rounds of ammunition, detectives were unable to find a .22-caliber rifle that is registered in his name, according to the district attorney’s office.
Police missed still another rifle in their search of the judge’s home, though Ferguson’s defense attorney later found it and handed it over, the D.A. said.
Among the extra bail conditions, prosecutors will ask that Ferguson surrender his passport and his permit to carry a concealed weapon, possess no guns and wear an ankle monitor.
In a motion to set Ferguson’s arraignment, Deputy Dist. Atty. Chris Alex asked the court to limit contact between the defendant and the son, described in court papers as the only eyewitness to the homicide, in order “to prevent any degree of risk or undue influence upon Son.”
Prosecutors will also ask that the judge avoid alcohol altogether.
Though its prosecutors appeared before the judge regularly until last week, the Orange County district attorney’s office is handling the case, citing a decision by the state attorney general’s office that there is no conflict.
Ferguson, who was a local prosecutor for more than three decades before becoming a judge in 2015, faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted.
“This is a tragedy for the entire Ferguson family. … It was an accident and nothing more,” Ferguson’s attorneys, John Barnett and Paul Meyer, said in a statement, according to City News Service.
At the request of the presiding judge of the Orange County Superior Court, where Ferguson is employed, the case has been transferred out of county.
It has been reassigned to the courtroom of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Ocampo, according to court records.
Ferguson is scheduled to be arraigned there Sept. 1.
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