"Vampire" murderer is sentenced to death in Florida's electric chair

Washington Post/February 27, 1998
By Donald P. Baker

Miami -- A 17-year-old youth who proclaims he is a vampire and admitted murdering a middle-aged couple with a crowbar was sentenced Friday to die in Florida's electric chair by a judge who called him "a disturbed young man" who proves "there is genuine evil in the world."

"There is a dark side and light side competing in each of us," declared Lake County Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett in handing down the death penalty against Rodrick Justin Ferrell.

Ferrell, of Murray, Ky., admitted killing Richard Wendorf and Naoma Queen in their home in Eustis, Fla., 35 miles northwest of Orlando, on Nov. 25, 1996. The letter "V", apparently for vampire, was burned into Wendorf's body.

Ferrell said he and three friends, who also called themselves vampires, traveled to Eustis from Kentucky after Heather Wendorf, whom he had met when both were students in Eustis, asked him to help steal her parents' sports utility vehicle so she could run away from home. Prosecutors said she intended to join a group headed by Ferrell that engaged in group sex and drank blood as part of what members considered vampire rituals.

Six hours before the murders, they said, Ferrell, then 16, and Heather Wendorf, then 15, sat in a cemetery and drank each other's blood so that she could become a vampire in his group and so that he could fortify himself to kill. Ferrell, Heather Wendorf and the other three, including Ferrell's former girlfriend, were arrested three days later at a motel in Baton Rouge, La., at which point police said Ferrell bragged about the murders.

In imposing the death penalty, Lockett was following a jury's recommendation returned Monday after a foreshortened trial. Ferrell interrupted opening arguments in the trial to plead guilty to first-degree murder, but the jury heard testimony in the sentencing phase to decide between a recommendation of life without parole or death.

If the death sentence was carried out without delay, Ferrell would be among the youngest criminals ever executed in this country. Most death sentences, however, are delayed by appeals. In any case, the sentence was part of a nationwide trend in which juveniles, historically protected from the death penalty because of their age, increasingly are being tried and sentenced as adults.

In Florida, three of the 373 inmates on death row were sentenced for crimes committed when they were juveniles, according to Carolyn Snurkowski, assistant state attorney general for criminal appeals.

After imposing the death sentence, the judge urged the grand jury that brought an indictment against Ferrell to reconvene and, based on new evidence revealed during the hearing, indict Heather Wendorf for her role in the slayings. Prosecutor Brad King said he doubts he will do that because "you don't indict someone if you can't prove they're guilty."

Ferrell's attorneys portrayed him as a troubled youth, addicted to drugs and sexually abused by relatives, and whose mother pled guilty in Kentucky last year to trying to seduce a 14-year-old boy during a vampire initiation rite.

On the eve of his sentencing, Ferrell advised other teens not to follow his path. "I want them to see that this is real life and that it has consequences," Ferrell said in an interview in his cell in the Lake County Jail in Tavares. "I didn't realize the impact and the consequences."

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