Jerry Davich: Valpo man who took hostages had checkered past
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org June 5, 2012 5:20PM
Alisa Ferguson.| Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:46AM
Roy Ferguson has been called many things since he took his own life late last month during a high-profile hostage standoff with police — everything from a hero to a desperate madman painted into a suicidal corner.
But what is not widely known about the 48-year-old Texas man is that he was once investigated for the mysterious death of his wife, Alisa Lynnette Ferguson. She was only 37.
On May 9, 2005, while living in Valparaiso, he told police he woke up and she was dead, apparently dying in her sleep. But Alisa’s family never bought that story.
“I know with every fiber of my being that Roy was responsible,” a family member told me.
In fact, they asked police to look into Alisa’s death a few days after she died, near the time of her funeral. An investigation was launched. An autopsy was performed. Toxicology tests were ordered. Roy was brought in for an interview, which is how Valparaiso police were familiar with his name during the tense hostage scene.
To recap that May 25 incident, Ferguson stormed into the Prudential Executive Group Real Estate office in Valparaiso and triggered a seven-hour standoff while holding two hostages. No one was seriously injured, and Ferguson ended the ordeal by shooting himself in the head. He died two hours later at a hospital.
Alisa’s family was suspicious of Roy’s involvement in her death from the get-go, especially because the couple were having marital problems, financial issues, and she had earlier asked him to leave their home, according to the police investigation.
Roy didn’t leave their home. Alisa didn’t wake up one morning. Her family doesn’t think it was a coincidence.
“I would never ever accuse anyone of such a horrendous act, but the things he did following made us question him,” said the family member, whose identity I am not revealing. “I do not want to cause the (couple’s) children more pain.”
But the family also cannot let Roy’s checkered past go unchecked any longer, especially after reading my Sunday column about the hostage standoff situation. More to the point, my column’s ending.
“You wrote that Roy’s obit stated he would be missed by all who were blessed to know him,” the family member said. “But I can only tell you that Roy was a dark cloud that entered our family and caused nothing but terror and pain.”
Did time for battery
Immediately after Alisa’s death, Roy reportedly distanced himself from her family, and kept the couple’s children away from Alisa’s family, too. The couple married on Oct. 5, 1996, in Lake Tahoe, Nev., and later had four children.
“They not only lost their mother, but they thought we abandoned them as well,” the family member said.
Roy told police during the investigation that he knew Alisa’s family never liked him and that’s why he stayed away from them after her death.
“Words can’t describe what a wonderful person Alisa was,” her obituary states. “Not only a soccer mom and school volunteer, she was also a devoted and loving daughter, wife, mother, sister and sister-in-law. Those who knew her couldn’t help but love her.”
Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes told me the 2005 investigation found nothing that would suggest foul play in Alisa’s death.
The autopsy showed no trauma to her body. The toxicology tests showed nothing out of the norm, except normal amounts of an antidepressant Alisa was taking.
The lab could have tested more for poisoning, but it needed more direction of what type of poison to look for, Grennes said. No further testing was ever done.
“The (police) threw it under the rug!” the family member told me.
Grennes disagreed, saying no evidence of any foul play was ever found, and the case was given to the prosecutor’s office. Alisa did not have a life insurance policy, which could have served as a motive to kill her, and no charges were ever issued against Roy.
Because it was difficult to determine Alisa’s exact cause of death, her heart was sent for additional testing. Results came back showing a heart irregularity and her official cause of death was, in part, cardiac disrhythmia — an abnormal heartbeat rhythm.
Other contributing factors included moderate obesity, and liver abuse due to drinking too much alcohol, the report states.
It should also be noted that Roy was convicted of felony battery in 1984 after getting into a fight with another man in Wanatah, reportedly over a woman, according to the police report.
“He slashed the man’s throat and spent time in prison,” the family member said.
“If the Valparaiso Police Department and coroner’s office would not have dismissed our pleas (in 2005), the children would not have to go through even more loss and pain now.”
Death over prison?
On a sadly similar note, do you remember my Mother’s Day column on Army Jean Dawson, 66-year-old Gary woman who was struck and killed by a motorist doped up on a drug cocktail, according to police?
Dawson was hit on Nov. 17, 2010, while looking through groceries in her vehicle’s trunk in the 4300 block of Broadway. She was killed instantly by Michael Ryan Connell, of Portage, who has been free on bond until he pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness last week in Lake Superior Court.
He faced a maximum eight-year prison sentence with a sentencing hearing set for Aug. 23. But that court date is a moot point now. Connell died this past Friday.
His obit states he died “unexpectedly” at Porter Hospital, “surrounded with love by his family.”
Dawson’s 44-year-old son, Cedric Kuykendall, told me he was told by the prosecutor’s office that Connell died of an alleged drug overdose. He was found unresponsive.
Similar to Ferguson’s obit, Connell’s obit was filled with warm memories, including that he was a lifelong Notre Dame and Chicago Cubs fan who was “born with an asphalt shovel in his tiny little hands” to help his father at Hobart Paving.
But don’t tell that to Dawson’s family members, who have mixed emotions about him dying instead of serving time in prison for killing their family matriarch.
“I’m in total shock,” Kuykendall told me over the weekend. “He never learned his lesson after all the stuff he has been involved in, so I don’t feel sorry for him.”
For more on this issue, listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show this Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.