Alleged Slayer of Trooper Kills Self
By Lori Moran
Staff Writer



The man accused of killing a West Virginia State Police trooper and being held In the Ritchie County Jail pending trial was found dead Sunday in his cell,

The body of Dennis R. Ferguson, 68, of Ritchie County was discovered by Corrections Officer John Wioland, said 1st Sgt. Randy Blevins, commander of state police District 4, Company A which oversees Ritchie, Tyler, Pleasants and Wirt counties.

Ferguson apparently used torn pieces of bed sheet to hang himself in the shower area of the cell, Blevins said.

Charged with one count of aggravated murder, Ferguson was awaiting trial in the murder of a Ritchie County-based state trooper, Trooper First Class Larry G. Hacker, 34. Hacker, who was a trooper for four years, was killed when answering a call involving a neighbor dispute on April 8.

Sgt. L B. Lanham and Trooper J. D. Ferrebee are investigating Ferguson's suicide Ferguson's body was transported to the state Medical Examiner's Office in Charleston, Blevins said. Blevins said Ferguson apparently had not attempted suicide previously. Held without bond pending the outcome of a trial, Ferguson was awaiting his trial, which was scheduled later this fall in Wetzel County.

In late June, Circuit Court Judge Joseph Troisi moved the trial from Ritchie County to Wetzel County because of the publicity generated by the shooting. Ferguson's attorney Keith White had said his client would not be able to get a fair trial if it were held Ritchie County. Troisi, who was to preside over the trial, also had ordered Ferguson to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

Ferguson allegedly ambushed and shot Hacker as he and another trooper. S. J. Verdow, attempted to investigate a dispute between neighbors in the White Oak community in rural Ritchie County.

At the time of the incident, neighbors said Ferguson shot the trooper then continued to fire, refusing to allow other officers or emergency medical personnel near him to render treatment. Hacker finally was flown from the scene to Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital after Ferguson apparently fled the scene. Police apprehended Ferguson, a World War II veteran, shortly after the incident.

In initial reports, Ferguson was said to have blocked a county road in front of his house and would not allow his neighbor, Jack Langford, to pass. Langford returned to his parents' home and called the police. Hacker responded. Soon after police arrived, the shooting started. Hacker apparently peered around the corner of a shed and was shot with a high-powered rifle.

Hacker, a 1989 graduate of the West Virginia State Police Academy, served both Ritchie and Pleasants county detachments and was considered a model trooper.

Hacker was the 35th state police trooper to be killed in the line of duty.