In Mobile, an attorney for Thomas Dale Ferguson, who is accused of
shooting a north Alabama man and his 11-year-old son to death in a
fishing boat, told jurors at Ferguson's capital murder trial Tuesday
that his client admits taking part in the crime.
But defense attorney Arthur Madden urged the jury not to convict him of
capital murder, which could bring a death sentence.
The court-appointed attorney claims Ferguson was influenced by his wife's
stepfather to participate in a scheme to steal a truck, which led to the
slayings of the boy and his dad. The crime outraged many in Colbert
County and forced the transfer of the trial to Mobile County.
Ferguson is 1 of 5 men charged in the July 20, 1997 deaths of
Harold Pugh, 41, and his son, Joey, whose bullet-riddled bodies
were found in Cane Creek near Barton. Another of the 5, Michael Craig
Maxwell, 25, has been convicted of capital murder and will be sentenced
June 30. The jury, which heard the case after the trial was moved to
Jefferson County, recommended the death penalty.
Colbert County District Attorney Gary Alverson told jurors that Ferguson
was a willing participant in the killings, which occurred as Pugh's
pickup truck was stolen in order to be used in the robbery of Deposit
Guaranty National Bank in Belmont, Miss.
The truck was found burning in a wooded area shortly afterward. The
bank robbers had tossed the jumpsuits they had worn and other gear used
in the robbery inside the burning truck, Alverson said.
Alverson said Ferguson and Maxwell forced Pugh and his son into Pugh's
boat and later shot them, dumping the bodies into the creek. He said
Ferguson later ripped out the pedestal seat he had sat in during the
killings in hopes of eliminating fingerprint evidence. Shell casings
from the bullets later were recovered from Pugh's boat.
"He was a free and voluntary participant in everything that occurred,"
Alverson told the jury. "He practiced to deceive investigators."
Madden said Ferguson was a follower "heavily influenced" by Mark
Moore, his father-in-law, who, according to attorneys, masterminded the
Pugh kidnapping and the $40,000 bank robbery. Madden asked the jury
not to believe testimony expected to come from Donald Ray
Risley, who is also charged in the slaying.
Madden said Risley has been promised a 15-year sentence with the
chance for parole in exchange for his testimony.
"He's going to walk away from this wreckage with 15 years with
He said Ferguson sat down with investigators on Aug. 22, and explained
"He was in the boat when Maxwell shot Harold and Joey Pugh," the
attorney said. But he asked the jury to find him guilty of felony
murder not the death penalty offense -- capital murder.
Colbert County Circuit Judge N. Pride Tompkins has sequestered the jury
for the trial that could end this week. He also ordered the windows in
the courtroom doors covered to prevent news cameras from photographing
Ferguson sat impassively beside his attorney. A woman seated in a
spectators' bench wiped away tears as the attorneys talked about the
bullet wounds in the victim's bodies, and the one that tore into the
In his confession, Maxwell said he and Ferguson confronted the Pughs as
they returned from fishing and forced them back into the boat. After
stopping at a secluded spot, Maxwell said he and Ferguson shot each
victim twice, and he dumped their bodies in the creek.
Trials for other 3 defendants are pending. Moore, 35, Kino Graham, 24,
and Risley, 24, are charged with murder.
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