Jeffrey Ferguson, found guilty 25 years ago for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl, was executed just after midnight last Wednesday in Missouri. His was the fifth execution in five months in the state.
"I'm sorry to have to be the cause that brings you all into this dark business of execution," Ferguson, 59, said in his final statement. "I pray for the victim's family to have peace in their hearts one day and lose the anger, hate and need for revenge that has driven them."
Ferguson was convicted of abducting Kelli Hall in February of 1989 as she finished her shift at a St. Louis gas station. Her frozen body was found almost two weeks later on a local farm. She had been raped and strangled, investigators concluded.
Ferguson’s two daughters and other relatives witnessed the execution from the observation room, along with Hall’s family. The victim’s father, Jim Hall, says the family can finally have closure now that their daughter’s murderer has been put to death, even if it took “way too many years.”
"This basically tore two families apart," Hall told the Associated Press after the execution. "Hopefully we can now move forward. ... Kelli can rest now."
Attorneys challenged Ferguson’s sentence with several appeals and arguments against the controversial lethal injection. He had reformed in prison, supporters said, doing good deeds and becoming deeply religious.
"Society doesn't gain anything by his execution," Rita Linhardt of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said Tuesday. "He's not the same man he was 24 years ago."
But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch flatly disagreed that Ferguson’s good behavior in prison made up for his crimes.
"She gets abducted, abused in an unspeakable manner by this guy and then slowly murdered and dumped in a field like a bag of garbage," McCulloch said.
Kenneth Ousley, a friend who was with Ferguson on the night of the murder, is in jail for life with the possibility of parole on second-degree murder charges. Hall’s father said the family is doing their best to make sure he is never paroled.