Photo by David Bowie

State Police Cpl. C.R. Manklns, left, and First Sgt. D.P. Lake, right, escort murder suspect Dennis R. Ferguson to Ritchie County Magistrate Court Monday morning.

Grand Jury Gets Trooper Case
Staff Writer

HARRISVILLE - Attorneys for a White Oak man accused of murdering state Trooper Larry G. Hacker have asked that their client receive a second preliminary hearing.

Magistrate David Haught on Monday bound Dennis R. Ferguson, 67, over to a Ritchie County Grand Jury on one count of aggravated murder in connection with Hacker's April 8 shooting. Hacker was killed while responding to a dispute among neighbors.

Ferguson's attorney Keith White later requested that Ritchie County Cutuit Court Judge Joseph Troisi grant his client a second preliminary hearing because Haugh would not allow him to call a witness at the list bearing.

Troisi win rule on the matter May 11.

White had asked to call Ferguson's neighbor, Jack Langford as a witness. However, Haugh upheld Prosecutor David Hanlon's objection that a preliminary hearing is merely to establish probable cause.

Ferguson was remanded to the Ritchie County Jail without bond. He was initially supposed to appear before Troisi for a bond hearing, but White made his motion for another preliminary hearing instead.

The Ritchie County Grand Jury convenes May 17.

After the preliminary hearing, White said his client will not enter a plea right now.

"If he's indicted by the grand jury there will be an arraignment on that and he will enter a plea then," White said.

The St. Marys attorney said he doesn't know what plea his client would enter if indicted.

"We haven't discussed that," White said.

Ferguson and White went before Haugh early Monday for the probable cause hearing. A handcuffed Ferguson was brought into the courtroom by two state troopers. He was dressed in orange jail coveralls and hooded sweatshirt. The defendant looked down at the table where he was seated throughout most of the proceedings.

The complaint stemmed from a call Hacker and fellow trooper SJ. Verdow received that Ferguson's light green pickup truck reportedly was blocking Ritchie County Road 9.

Verdow, who has only been a trooper eight months, said that when he and Hacker arrived, the veteran trooper cautioned him to be careful because shots had been reported in the area.

The two found Ferguson's truck parked in his driveway, he said. The two began to examine the area and Hacker went toward a shed.

"He peeked around the shed and I heard a shot," Verdow said.

Hacker went down and Verdow said he yelled back to the Ritchie County deputies that Hacker was shot and that they needed backup.

Verdow testified that after other officers arrived on the scene and gunfire was exchanged, Ferguson yelled, "I got one of you cops. One of you got me and now we're even," Verdow said.

Another witness, SgL D.P. Lake continued that officers yelled up at Ferguson to come down into the light and give himself up.

He said Ferguson's initial responses could not be understood. The trooper said later ones were not fit for mixed company and that after shots were exchanged Ferguson's later comment about getting a cop was heard.

Lake said that when he and another officer were unknowingly retracing Hacker's steps, they found his gun, flashlight and hat by the shed. The gun had not been fired, Lake said. "It wasn't in the cocked position," Lake said.