I'm going to revisit and share with you one of the most gruesome murders since Ed Gein's love affair with freshly buried corpses. It happened in a rural town called Bean Station, Tennessee. A place so small, you could easily miss it with a blink.
The Ferguson murders happened back in 1993, and my journey to find a wealth of information on the topic was less than a breeze. I began with the typical online search, which turned up nothing but a disabled link to a Knoxville News Sentinel article, so I hopped inside my SUV and made a few trips to find out all that I could about what really happened on Rocky Summitt Road in Grainger County.
One of my stops included the location where the perpetrator, Donald Ferguson, committed his evil deeds. Ferguson shared an old farmhouse with his mother, Nannie, who was physically and mentally abused at his hand. Those beatings had resulted in the amputation of one of her arms.
I was a little disappointed to see that the old farmhouse, along with its infamous concrete cistern and wood stove were gone. All that remained was an empty, grown-up field. It is safe to assume that the people who live close by were probably happy to see the decrepit structure knocked down, or perhaps burned to the ground.
|The only thing that remains is an empty lot. This photo and the one below was taken from the inside of my car for fear of angering property owners.|
|Notice the sign, God is Love, which seemed to mimic a watchful guard to keep lingering evil within it's boundaries.|
Nannie went straight to the police department, reported her findings and ended the silence about her son's brutal beatings. When authorities arrived at the farmhouse, Richard's truck was still in the driveway and Ferguson was at the front with a broom, trying to keep things neat, just the way he liked it. The housekeeping efforts weren't quite thorough enough because members of the local fire and rescue squad, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the prestigious forensics team at The University of Tennessee were summoned.
Despite the cleaning spree, officials found blood spattered across the kitchen walls and when the water cistern was drained, most of Richard's fairly fresh body was extracted. Later on, the head of the corpse was found, the mouth stuffed with the bloodied stump of a penis.
In the past, Ferguson had made the statement that he would never let his wife leave. And he wasn't kidding. During questioning, he was ordered to empty his pockets and among the loose change, pieces of the missing wife were found, including her patella (kneecap) that had been rubbed smooth by the stroking of a finger.
Pants pockets weren't the only place Sherrie's remains were found. Bits of her bones were scattered around the kitchen cabinets and when Ferguson was feeling extra lonely, he would go to the cistern and select a piece of his beloved, drilling a hole in the carefully chosen trophy so that a leather thong could be strung through it and worn around his neck. Sources tell me that a toe was his favorite pendant.
With a mountain of evidence stacked against him, Ferguson confessed to both slayings. Cheating with his wife was the motive for bashing Richard in the head with a claw hammer before cutting him up with an electric kitchen knife. Calmly, he admitted to one official that he used his 'friend' as fuel for the wood burning stove since it got so cold out there in the winter time.
Perhaps the murder of Sherri could have been committed as a crime of passion, but the exact opposite could be said about Richard's murder. Two years had lapsed after his wife went missing before Ferguson killed his friend for the alleged affair. There was plenty of time for Ferguson to cool off and map out his next plan of action.
Word of mouth informants claim that Donald and Richard had had an argument before the murder, although I have no knowledge as to what sparked it or what the heated exchange was about. Maybe Ferguson rehashed his disdain of the affair, provoking a scuffle that went out of control. But the simple truth remains...
The Devil made him do it.
"Lisa", who resides in the Bean Station area, and has given me permission to use her first name. Thank you, Lisa.
The Rogersville Review, May 1994
'Teasing Secrets From The Dead' by Emily Craig, Ph.D.
*Last names of the victims were not revealed to ensure the privacy of the deceased families'.