Paul Ferrell

Grant County, West Virginia
Date of Alleged Crime:  February 17, 1988

Paul William Ferrell, a rookie sheriff's deputy, was convicted of the murder of Cathy Ford, a 19-year-old waitress from nearby Maryland. Her body has never been found and no one had ever seen her with Ferrell. Some time after Ford's disappearance, her boyfriend, Darvin Moon, discovered her badly burned truck 75 yards from Ford's trailer home. Some believed that the truck was burned elsewhere because there was no scorching on the vegetation surrounding the vehicle.

FBI agents found traces of blood under a newly laid carpet in Ferrell's trailer as well as on the walls and ceiling. Laboratory tests showed the blood to be that of a woman, but DNA tests could not match the blood to Ford. Ferrell said the trailer was eight years old, had been occupied by others, and might be stained by blood from a variety of sources. At trial, the prosecution purportedly engaged in “mathematical wizardry” which made the found blood look like that of Ford's.

An FBI agent testified that while giving Ferrell a “hypothetical scenario about Cathy Ford's murder,” he had “observed signs of guilt” in Ferrell's “body language.” According to Ferrell's appellate attorney, “this is the first time, ever, in the history of American criminal jurisprudence, that this kind of evidence has… been allowed to go to a jury.”

On the grounds that Ferrell might have committed the alleged crime for sexual reasons, his trial included circumstantial evidence that he had telephoned bookstores and libraries throughout the country posing as a physician and asking clerks who answered to read explicit passages from books on sex.

A witness, Tamela Kitzmiller, testified to having received an obscene phone call from a man she took to be Ferrell. She later recanted her testimony, claiming that the prosecution convinced her to testify by telling her that Ferrell had been involved in a series of murders in Yellowstone Park. “They told me that he was a sicko, and that he needed to be put away.” After giving her testimony, Kitzmiller says she waited for prosecutors to produce proof of Ferrell's involvement in the Yellowstone murders, as they had promised. This proof never arrived.

Kim Nelson, a neighbor of Ferrell, testified that on the day of Ford's disappearance she heard “banging, a gunshot, and a woman's scream” coming from Ferrell's trailer. Later, however, she stated she “didn't know nothin' about Paul Ferrell killin' anybody,” and that she had not heard anything out of the ordinary on the day in question.

Private investigator and author Martin Yant helped expose the case by publishing a story about it in a magazine.  He also got the case exposure on Montel Williams and Unsolved Mysteries. Ferrell was released pending an evidentiary hearing, but he was reincarcerated for the crime in 1997.  West Virginia Governor Underwood commuted Ferrell's sentence in Jan. 2001.  He wrote that Ferrell's convictions “are not supported by the presence of the alleged victim's body, weapon, eyewitnesses, or physical evidence such as fingerprints, hair and fibers.”  The commutation made Ferrell eligible for parole which he was granted in May 2004.  [2/08]


References:  Justice: DeniedArticles, Unsolved Mysteries, State v. Ferrell

Posted in:  Victims of the State, West Virginia Cases, Police Officer Defendants, Murder Cases Without a Body