A Ritchie County man accused of killing a state trooper hanged himself in his jail cell, state police said today.
Dennis Ferguson, 67, of Pullman apparently hanged himself with a bedsheet Sunday, said Trooper James Ferrebee of the Harrisville state police detachment.
Ferguson had been an inmate in the Ritchie County Jail since April 8, when be allegedly shot Trooper Larry G. Hacker. The officer had been called to investigate an argument between Ferguson and a neighbor.
Ferguson was indicted on a murder charge in May and pleaded innocent His trial was scheduled for this fall in Wetzel County.
Hacker's killing was the first of a state trooper in West Virginia since 1989. The three-year police veteran went to Ferguson's rural home after resident Jack Langford called police to complain that Ferguson's vehicle was blocking a narrow road leading to Langford's house, which is about a mile from Ferguson's residence.
The incident was apparently the culmination of an ongoing feud between Langford and Ferguson. Authorities said they had been called to the area several times after Langford complained that Ferguson came on his property and fired weapons.
Langford said he was returning from feeding cattle at his parents' home when he encountered an unarmed Ferguson.
"He was irrational, accusing someone four of five years ago of killing one of his cats," Langford told reporters in April. "I asked him to move his truck and he said he'd move it when he was good and ready."
Langford returned to his parents' home and called police. Hacker was among several off icers who responded to the scene.
Authorities say as Hacker walked up a steep driveway leading to Ferguson's home, Ferguson opened fire from a knoll above the house.
When paramedics attempted to retrieve Hacker's body, Ferguson allegedly fired at authorities again, triggering a 15-minute gun battle between Ferguson and police.