Prison records show that Rod Ferrell enjoys having a bevy of female pen pals and visitors, including some who want to marry.
Tavares — Is it a surprise that a man sentenced to life in prison more than 20 years ago for murdering two people would have female groupies?
The answer is no, if you were the charismatic leader of a blood-sucking teen vampire cult.
Rod Ferrell stuck his tongue out at reporters after being arrested in 1996 for bludgeoning Richard Wendorf and Ruth Queen in their Eustis home. They were the parents of one of his followers, 15-year-old Heather Wendorf.
Ferrell, whose horrific crime made international headlines, is back in the news again. He hopes that weeklong hearings starting Monday will result in a lighter sentence. In the meantime, prison records show that he enjoys having a bevy of female pen pals and visitors, including some who want to marry.
Prison officials screen visitors. One woman who was on the list of potential visitors was a Texas woman who was arrested in the 1970s for public intoxication, shoplifting, public nudity and criminal mischief.
Another said she had a higher calling.
“I write to some other people who are in prison, not for murder, but in prison just the same. I write Christian poetry, and it seems to help those who read it,” an Arizona woman wrote in a letter to prison officials.
“I am 69 years old and it is heart-breaking to see so many young people going the wrong way. I’d like to tell them that with God they can find peace and forgiveness, no matter where they are. I’ve written to David Berkowitz also. I know lives can be changed.”
Berkowitz was known as the “Son of Sam” killer who terrorized New York City in the 1970s, killing six people with a .44-caliber handgun.
Ferrell got into trouble in 2005 when one of his female visitors sent a photograph that she had taken of them kissing, and him touching her breast during a prison visit. The violation of prison rules was discovered by mailroom workers and led to a two-year suspension of her visitation rights.
She wrote to prison officials begging them to lift the ban.
“Rod and I have been together for over a year now. We applied to be married back in July 2004. I am a responsible citizen. I both pay taxes and vote.”
She said she had worked for a large company for more than 11 years, held a responsible position and moved to Jacksonville to be near him. He is imprisoned at Tomoka Correctional Institution near DeLand.
“I have tried to be a good influence on Rod, encouraging him to go to church, stay out of trouble, behave himself and keep his mouth shut,” she wrote.
“Though I am about 50 years old, I must confess to extreme naivete of prisons. I have never been in legal trouble and I am very sorry to have caused this trouble through my ignorance.”
One would-be visitor was Julie Anderson, the wife of Ferrell’s co-defendant, Howard Scott Anderson.
Having a co-defendant’s spouse visit is against the rules. Anderson didn’t mention being married in a 2017 interview with the Daily Commercial. It is not clear if his prison wedding is still in effect. Most don’t last long.
One woman, who is expected to testify on Ferrell’s behalf, is offering to give him a place to stay if he is released.
Ferrell is not the first Lake or Sumter County prisoner to have jailhouse romances.
In 2000, a paralegal fell in love with Ricky Adams, a man who would be convicted of beating his 6-year-old daughter, Kayla McKean, to death. The woman, who was the mother of two children herself, called him “Cupcake” and signed her letters “Your Butterfly.”
She was arrested and charged with smuggling contraband into the county jail, including a marijuana cigarette, chewing tobacco, lighters and a glamour photo of herself. Adams was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Contraband is a big problem in prisons. Ferrell has been disciplined for having tobacco, a lighter, dice and a razor blade in his cell.
In 1988 a female corrections officer at Lake Correctional Institution helped smuggle a prisoner out in a fertilizer truck. The man, who was serving 85 years for rape and other charges, was caught two months later. She disappeared, then surrendered and was sentenced to four months in jail.
Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 36 women and girls across the country in the 1970s, was flooded with female fan mail in prison.
During his 1980 trial in Orlando, he outwitted court officials by marrying his fiancée in the courtroom.
Do you want to marry me?” Bundy asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Do I want to marry you?”
“I do hereby marry you,” he said.
It was legal. A notary public in the courtroom stamped their marriage certificate.
Later, he outsmarted prison officials when he conceived a child with the woman while on death row. She divorced him two years before he was executed in 1989.
“There are any good, sound and legitimate reasons for a person, who is not incarcerated (i.e. an ‘outmate,’ to want to marry an inmate,” according to a website called Van Zandt & Spies Society.
Those reasons include inheritance, mortgage and lease rights, Social Security benefits, not to mention “emotional, psychological, spiritual and social commitment.” Then, there is love, the site notes.
Prison chaplains say people take the plunge for all kinds of reasons. There’s the notion of forbidden fruit, for example, the hope that a woman can “fix” the man behind bars, or simply that a locked up prisoner is a safe partner.
The idea of a prison romance even showed up in the popular TV “Seinfeld” sitcom.
“I like being with her,” George said in the “Little Jerry” episode. “Plus, I know where she is all the time. I have relatively no competition. And you know how you live in fear of the pop-in?
“The pop-in,” Jerry shuddered.
“Yeah, no pop-in, no ‘in the neighborhood,’ no ‘I saw your light was on.’ And the best part is, if things go really well...”
“Conjugal visit?” Jerry said.
“Don’t jinx it!” George replied.
Of course, things go haywire when she escapes.
The Florida Department of Corrections requires people who want to visit to submit an application. “However, we urge the public to be cautious before establishing social or pen pan relationships.” The agency urges people to first check out inmates at www.fdc.myflorida.com/
There are private websites that post pictures of inmates who want pen pals. Some charge a fee and look like regular dating sites.
One such site is Jailbabes.com.
“Hi, my name is Kareen Cunningham,” one woman posted, with a photo that has her looking like a perky cheerleader.
“I am currently incarcerated, but I refuse to let that ruin my life. I won’t be here forever. I still have hope for a bright future. I am extremely new to the whole pen pal thing, but it would be nice to be called for mail once in a while.
“I have a heart made of gold and a carefree personality that I would love to share with someone else. I am a hairdresser and I love the beach and horseback riding. I have an open mind and I love to try new things.”
She includes her address at Lowell Correctional Institute and other vital information, like her date of birth and the fact that she is 5-foot-1.
She even publishes her maximum release date: 2027. What her ad does not include is what the state corrections website shows.
She was sentenced in 2014 to 17 years for six crimes: home invasion robbery with a deadly weapon, trafficking in stolen property, armed burglary, grand theft, grand theft of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.
True crime writer Sondra London, who attended a portion of Ferrell’s trial in 1998, was the fiancée of Gainesville serial killer Danny Rolling until she broke it off.
“I, as a woman, look at a lot of men who are either gay, married, fat or a wimp,” she told the Orlando Sentinel in a 2000 interview. Men in prison have a lean, mean look, she said. “It’s an illusion. What’s love got to do with it?” she said, quoting the famous Tina Turner song.
To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.