Charleston West Virginia 

Thursday Sept 16, 1993



Slaying Suspect Mailed Will Before Killing Self

HARRISVILLE - A Ritchie County man suspected of killing a state trooper mailed his will to his sister before killing himself, but the woman did not notify authorities, Sheriff Michael Burwell said. "I don't know why she didn't tell us she had it," Burwell said.

Dennis Ferguson, 68, of Pullman was found dead in his cell Sunday. The state medical examiner ruled the death a suicide by hanging.

His sister, whose name Burwell did not know, did not mention the will until her brother's lawyer called to tell her of Ferguson's suicide, he said.

Ferguson's trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 25 In Wetzel County for the murder of Trooper Larry Hacker. Hacker was killed April 8 when he answered a call to mediate a dispute between neighbors in rural Ritchie County, state police said.

Hacker, 34, was the first trooper to die on duty since April 1989.

Jailers did not know Ferguson had written or mailed a will, Prosecutor David Hanlon said.

"It was just a handwritten letter type. You can't censor letters going out Hanlon said.

State police are investigating Ferguson's death, but Hanlon does not believe they will find that jailers were negligent.

There wasn't anything the jailers could have done, Hanlon said. Hanlon said Ferguson had asked for a private cell. "The jail cells in Ritchie County have a very small window that the jailor looks through when he checks on the prisoners. Mr. Ferguson had made his bed with pillows to make it look like somebody was sleeping in it When the jailor looked in, he would see what he thought was Mr. Ferguson on the bunk," Hanlon said.

The lighting in the cell was dark and Ferguson hanged himself with part of a ripped bedsheet in a corner that was not easily visible from the door, Hanlon said.

When Ferguson did not touch the breakfast the jailor slipped through the door Sunday morning, he opened the door and found Ferguson's body, Hanlon said.