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Old 11-11-2008, 02:11 PM   #1
justins5256
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Default The Final Appeal of Paul Ferrell

I recently came upon this episode. I doubt many here have seen it or are familiar with it, as the story was featured on NBC’s short lived "Final Appeal" series and was not rerun on Unsolved Mysteries or on Lifetime to my knowledge. The case concerned the possible wrongful conviction of a rookie deputy sheriff from Virginia, Paul Ferrell. Ferrell was serving a life sentence for the murder of Cathy Ford, a 19 year old waitress whom Ferrell admits to having an affair with.

Paul Ferrell was a rookie deputy sheriff who had only been on the force for a few months at the time of his arrest for Ford’s murder. He was also dating a woman who had a young son and the couple was discussing marriage. Ferrell's girlfriend was unaware that Ferrell was also dating Cathy Ford, a 19 year old waitress who worked at her parents’ restaurant in Gorman, Maryland. Likewise, Cathy Ford's boyfriend, Darvin Moon, was unaware that Cathy was dating Ferrell.

On the afternoon of February 17, 1988, Cathy Ford left her parents’ restaurant. Cathy told her mother that she had received a phone call from a friend who told her that the local police department was going to be conducting stings to crack down on bars and restaurants serving alcohol to minors. Cathy left the restaurant in her Ford Bronco presumably to meet with the caller. She never returned. That same evening, Paul Ferrell went to a bowling alley to meet with some friends. When he arrived at the bowling alley, the manager informed Ferrell that a young woman had called the bowling alley repeatedly asking if he was there. The woman wouldn't leave her name but did leave a phone number. Ferrell claims he called the number and spoke with Cathy. He said she sounded distressed and that her speech was slurred. She wanted to meet Ferrell at his trailer. He declined but suggested they meet in a local high school parking lot instead. Ferrell claims Cathy agreed to the meeting but never arrived. Cathy's parents reported her missing and a search began.

In the days after Cathy's disappearance, Ferrell claims he made a gruesome discovery on his property. He says he found Cathy’s burned out Bronco in the woods about 75 yards behind his trailer. Fearing that Cathy’s body may be inside, and that he might be blamed for her murder, Ferrell did not report the discovery to anyone. He then hand wrote an anonymous letter to Cathy’s parents. In the letter, he wrote that Cathy had intentionally run away. He also included $200 cash to help cover the cost of the missing Bronco. Ferrell would later deny that he wrote the letter, but changed his story after an FBI handwriting expert testified that the writing was indeed Ferrell’s. A few weeks after the letter was received by Cathy’s parents, Darvin Moon found the burned Bronco behind Ferrell’s trailer and notified authorities.

The police obtained a search warrant and began a vigorous and comprehensive search of Ferrell’s property. Investigators found blood stains on the ceiling of the trailer and under a newly laid carpet. The blood could not be positively linked to Cathy Ford, but testing showed it did belong to a female and was consistent with blood from other members of Cathy Ford’s family.

At Ferrell’s trial, several witnesses testified against Ferrell. One of his neighbors, Kimberly Sue Nelson, testified that she had heard a female scream and a gunshot originate from Ferrell’s trailer on the day Cathy Ford disappeared.

Another witness, Tamela Kitzmiller, claimed she received an obscene phone call from Ferrell. The prosecution presented evidence that Ferrell had a bizarre habit of calling local bookstores and libraries pretending to be a doctor and asking the female clerks to read sexually explicit passages from medical books. There were at least 400 documented incidents of these phone calls. The prosecution used this testimony to paint Ferrell as a pervert who lived in a fantasy world.

An FBI profiler who interviewed Ferrell gave testimony that he noticed “signs of guilt” in Ferrell’s body language while the two were discussing a hypothetical murder scenario involving Cathy Ford.

Ferrell was convicted of kidnapping, murder, and arson and sentenced to life in prison. He immediately appealed the conviction and has always maintained his innocence.

So, was Ferrell innocent? Here are some issues raised by the defense...

* Ferrell admitted that he had been the first to find Cathy’s Ford Bronco and that he had also been the author of the anonymous letter, but now says he was scared and that these were just “stupid mistakes”.

* Ferrell’s attorneys pointed out that the blood could not be conclusively linked to Cathy Ford. In addition, the trailer was several years old and Ferrell was not the first tenant to occupy the trailer.

* Kimberly Sue Nelson would later retract her statements about the shot and screams she allegedly heard on the day that Cathy Ford disappeared. She claimed that the prosecution prepared a type written statement of her testimony and instructed her to sign it. She didn’t read the statement before signing but now says that that there are inconsistencies. She said she told the police that she did not know the exact date she heard the shot, and that gunshots were pretty common in that area. She also said that prosecutors badgered her saying that Ferrell was a killer and might come after her or her children if she didn’t testify against him.

* Tamela Kitzmiller would also recant her testimony about the crank phone calls and has claimed it was coerced. She said the police told her that they knew Ferrell was a “sicko” and that he was responsible for other unsolved murders, including some in Yellowstone Park.

Investigators deny making such statements to both witnesses.

Ferrell also admits to making some sex phone calls but says it irrelevant. He says that the calls were harmless, and that he made them because he couldn’t afford a credit card to call actual phone sex lines.

* Ferrell’s attorneys claim that the testimony about Ferrell’s demeanor as given by the FBI profiler is subjective and should not have been allowed in court in the first place.

* Finally, a year after Ferrell’s conviction, there was one reported sighting of Cathy Ford. Two residents of Gorman who knew Ford prior to her disappearance claim they saw her waitressing at a restaurant in Tennessee. The witnesses stated that the woman appeared to recognize them too, and had another waitress ask the couple where they were from. When the waitress relayed the information back to the mystery woman, she fled the restaurant. According to Robert Stack, the police did NOT investigate this sighting. However, Ford’s brother was interviewed on FA and stated that the family believed that Cathy was dead.

As an interesting footnote, Ferrell was paroled in 2005. FA mentioned he would be eligible for parole in 2002.

He seemed pretty guilty to me. Any thoughts?

EDIT: To elaborate on a few things - I was disappointed that FA did not present any alternate scenarios to explain the evidence against Ferrell, or more specifically, who may have planted it (assuming he was framed). While the sighting of Cathy after her "death" does cast some doubt on the "official version", I find it difficult to take the sighting seriously. It is also difficult to take the whole "Cathy Ford lives" theory seriously without some more background. Why would Cathy Ford suddenly and abruptly vanish leaving her burned out car on her lover's property and leaving him holding the bag at the same time? Not once did the show touch on other suspects or attempt to explain Cathy's behavior here. I thought that aspect was pretty weak. There have been numerous cases on Unsolved Mysteries where a witness will appear on the show and swear up and down that they saw a missing person alive and well. Then we get an "update" saying that the person's body was found and they have been dead since the day they disappeared. I can't help but wonder if the same thing is going on here. Not to mention members of Ford's family think she is dead, and these people typically hold out hope the longest.

I wonder if FA's selection of cases to had anything to do with it's cancellation. If they were all this weak, and the defendants so blatantly guilty as I feel that Ferrell was, it's no wonder the show wasn't taken seriously.

Last edited by justins5256; 11-11-2008 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:09 PM   #2
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I just saw this one on Spike. I'm not sure how much they edited from the original airing, but based on what I saw, I'm not sure that he was guilty.

My first problem was the car being in his backyard. The guy really couldnt have been that stupid could he? I mean he was a cop, you would think that if he had killed his girlfriend that he wouldnt be stupid enough to torch her car and leave it in his own backyard.

They didnt tell us what his motive would have been for killing her. They never gave any reason why he might have wanted her dead.

I wonder how closely they looked at her boyfriend. She was cheating on him, and they implied that he knew about it, which would give him a motive.

I just dont think the burden of proof was met here. I can see why someone might think he was guilty(I dont know what the hell he was thinking by sending that letter to the family), but I dont think they proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:28 PM   #3
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Did the Spike airing mention that he was paroled?
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justins5256
Did the Spike airing mention that he was paroled?
Yes it did, they said that he spent 18 years in jail, so I guess he just got out recently.
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Old 02-19-2010, 02:46 PM   #5
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IMO I would think he was guilty, but not beyone a rwasonable doubt. the theory of the boyfriend makes sense as he did let on to the cop that he knew about the affair. here are some things about the cop that make me think he is guilty:

*the blood found in his trailer on the ceiling and some splatters of blood on the wall I believe they said.

*writing the letter to her family pretending to be cathy. seems his "stupid mistakes" look like they were actions of a man that was feeling guilty and may have panicked.

*maybe he burned the car near his trailer because he was a cop and knew if thats where they found it he could say "why would I do that in my own backyard."

another theroy could be his girlfriend found out about the affair also and may have been the killer.

I never take the people spotting the victims after the fact as most end up being not credible and in some cases the mind can make you see and believe what you want to see and believe.
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Old 02-19-2010, 03:19 PM   #6
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Wow, yeah, there is almost no doubt in my mind that Ferrell is guilty. The boyfriend angle is interesting, but I don't know of any hard evidence to support it really, just speculation. Considering the amount of evidence against Ferrell, I don't know....it's hard to really take any other scenario seriously. If you weren't convinced before of his guilt, take a look at this...

http://wv.findacase.com/research/wfr...9999.WV.htm/qx
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Old 02-19-2010, 05:31 PM   #7
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wow UM left this out?

"On 18 February 1988, Mr. Ferrell ripped out and burned the carpeting from the master bedroom of his trailer (mobile home), replacing it with new carpeting on the following day. Mr. Ferrell claimed that he did this because of dark stains and dead animal odor. However, when his girlfriend, Cathy Bernard, visited his trailer on 14 February 1988, she had not noticed any stains on the master bedroom carpet, nor any strong odors. Also Mr. Ferrell's landlord had not noticed any stain or odors in the trailer on 21 January 1988."

"On 29 February 1988, Mr. Ferrell made a collect call from Uniontown, Pennsylvania to his girlfriend, Cathy Bernard, in which he asked her to call the Ford family to say Cathy Ford was alright. When asked to explain Ms. Bernard's testimony that he had asked her to make calls claiming she was Cathy Ford, Paul Ferrell told police that on 20 February 1988, (three days after Cathy Ford disappeared), he asked Ms. Bernard to call someone saying Cathy Ford was alright, because he wanted to slow down the investigation so that his telephone calls might not be discovered. On 2 March 1988, Cathy Ford's parents received a letter postmarked Pittsburgh, 29 February 1988. (It was stipulated that a letter mailed from Uniontown would be postmarked Pittsburgh.) The letter said."
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Old 02-19-2010, 10:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justins5256
Wow, yeah, there is almost no doubt in my mind that Ferrell is guilty. The boyfriend angle is interesting, but I don't know of any hard evidence to support it really, just speculation. Considering the amount of evidence against Ferrell, I don't know....it's hard to really take any other scenario seriously. If you weren't convinced before of his guilt, take a look at this...

http://wv.findacase.com/research/wfr...9999.WV.htm/qx
I have to agree, especially after reading the opinion. This seems one where UM def. gave a pro-defendant view of the facts.
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Old 02-20-2010, 12:39 AM   #9
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Yeah, it is pretty rare in the mainstream media or really any media that a pro defendant twist is given. Paul Ferrell was paroled, but not from a life sentence. Outgoing West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood commuted Ferrell's life sentence to I believe a 40 year sentence. Thus he became eligible for parole almost immediately, and in 2004 that parole was granted.

In terms of Doug Crow, I rip on him because he is a twerp. Yeah, he prosecuted Oba Chandler and that is great, but to be honest, a first year prosecutor probably could have got a conviction on Chandler. Doug Crow, is now the Chief Assistant State Attorney for Pinellas and Pasco Counties. My guess, is current State Attorney Bernie McCabe, will retire in 2012, he will have been State's Attorney for 20 years by then, and Doug Crow will run as his successor and win. Sad but a true reality. People love the sound bites and campaign gimmicks that people Crow will provide about how 'tough' they are even while in several instances being unethical.

I was not mad that Crow spoke against Glenn Consagra. What ticked me off though about Crow is how he sat there and tried to act all high and mighty, when he and his office were the ones that offered Consagra the plea deal to 2nd degree murder! Yet Crow tries to act like Mr. Big Shot, when he could have taken it to trial and got a conviction, well most likely, a conviction to first degree murder and Consagra would have got two consecutive sentences of 25 to life, or, possibly got the death penalty.

Now, one thing I always found interesting about that plea bargain is this: While Crow offered Consagra the plea bargain to 2nd degree murder, evidently, Crow did not make a sentencing recommendation. I think Consagra's lawyers did kind of a lousy job in this regard, in letting their client plead guilty to 2nd degree murder without a sentencing recommendation. At that time, in Florida, 2nd degree murder sentencing was VERY open ended. You could get anywhere from a couple years in prison to a life sentence WITH the possibility of parole after 7 years. Consagra was paroled in 1992, so that tells me that he was paroled the first time he was eligible but that was not unusual in Florida at that time, as in the 1980's and in the early to mid 90's, many lifers were paroled to ease prison overcrowding.

Interestingly, Florida had a very unusual sentencing statute for murder. In 1983, parole was abolished for 2nd degree murder (if the defendant was sentenced to life for that crime) and several other crimes, but yet, ironically not for first degree murder or capital sexual battery which if convicted, carried sentences of either 25 to life or the death penalty. Parole for those latter two crimes was not abolished until 1995. Like look at Thomas Drake, the crime he was convicted of, it occurred not long after the laws changed, hence why, while he got 30 years for attempted 2nd degree murder, he got LWOP for armed robbery.
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Old 02-20-2010, 12:49 AM   #10
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Disregard the part about Florida, I posted it in the wrong thread.
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:45 AM   #11
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Paul Ferrell may hold the unusual distinction of being the only person in the world to consult Tim McClure for interviewing advice.
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:57 AM   #12
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If I remember right, Governor Cecil Underwood, who has since passed away, commuted Farrell's sentence from life in prison, to I want to say it was a 40 year sentence, but I may be wrong on what exactly it was commuted to, I just know it was reduced dramatically and that Farrell became eligible for parole almost immediately as a result. Underwood had been defeated for re-election in 2000, and commuted Farrell's sentence in the closing hours of his administration. Underwood was legendary in West Virginia Politics, first elected Governor at the age of 34 in 1956 and serving until 1960. Then being elected Governor again in 1996 at the age of 74. He had the distinction of being the youngest Governor in his first term and the oldest Governor in his 2nd term. He was narrowly defeated for re-election in 2000 by long-time Congressman Bob Wise who would go on to have his own career de-railed after one term when he was implicated in an extra marital affair with a state employee.

Anyway, getting back to the reasoning behind Underwood's sentence commutation. From what I understand, it was due to Underwood's concerns about the lack of physical evidence in the case. In fact private investigator Martin Yant and his investigation, you may remember Yant from the Paul Freshour and Circleville letters case as well as the Clarence Elkins case although the latter was not profiled on UM. Underwood, while it seemed he did not 100 percent believe in Farrell's innocence, he did have enough doubt about Farrell's guilt that while he denied Farrell's request for a pardon, he did grant the commutation request reducing Farrell's sentence dramatically and making him eligible for parole immediately. In the commutation order, Underwood said Farrell'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." We will never know whether Underwood regretted his decision or not. It appears that Farrell has stayed out of trouble since his release. Underwood died in November of 2008 at the age of 86 as a result of complications of a major stroke he had suffered earlier in the year. He has also been despondent over the passing of his wife of 59 years the year before. Anyway, sorry for getting off the subject, I just find the whole cast of character involved in this case interesting.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:56 PM   #13
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Ferrell was like the Forrest Gump of Final Appellants.
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Old 03-07-2014, 05:27 PM   #14
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http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/...5&postcount=49

Just pulling the discussion over here.

I think Paul Ferrell and Cathy Ford had a relationship in as much as you would have a relationship with the convenience store clerk you see every other day or a waiter/waitress at your favorite restaurant. You probably know their first name and chit-chat with them sometimes. I think that is probably as far as the relationship between Paul and Cathy ever went, if that: a friendly acquaintance. At the very least, I think they at least recognized the other's face.

According to the 1990 appeal brief, the Old Mill (Cathy's family's restaurant) could easily be seen from Ferrell's Mart, as they were a few hundred feet away from each other on Route 50. I think the combination of the small size of the community and the close proximity of the families' businesses enabled Paul (who I think, for all his logical failings, was probably an extremely observant man and a pretty good notetaker) to find out a whole lot about Cathy Ford without her necessarily telling him. I think he watched her--like he did plenty of other women--from that window in that convenience store. I think that's primarily how he knew about Darvin Moon. I don't think Cathy told him she had a boyfriend. I think he WATCHED Moon himself come and go from that restaurant. Ferrell is the sort of man who watched the post office across the street well enough to know when a certain post-mistress was on duty and the other was not. I think he'd be definitely more than capable of culling a lot of information on Cathy Ford just by observation in the same manner. I think the fact that he had all this information served to make it appear as though he was far more familiar with Cathy than what he actually was, and thus the affair tale came into being.

I do believe it is likely that he and Cathy did share small talk about "people that irritated them" (the two were both essentially in customer service; I can certainly envision some commiseration there), but only as Cathy bought her cigarettes from Paul's store, or as Cathy served Paul lunch or whatever. Maybe Cathy even mentioned in passing that she wanted to do something more than work the restaurant. I don't know. But what we do know is:

1. Paul's brother David--whom he lived with above Ferrell's Mart for some time before moving into a trailer in Oakland, MD during the fall of 1987 and then the other trailer in Mt Storm, WV in late January 1988--claimed that if Paul were having an affair with Cathy Ford, he and his wife would've almost certainly known about it. Paul claims the affair went as far back as early 1987. He would've been living with his brother and sister-in-law for the very vast majority of that period of time.

2. Paul's apparent propensity for observing activity from a vantage point, and then filing that information away for later use. There are countless stories about Paul calling women in the area, and what I find most interesting about it is that he seemed to craft his stories to fit the individual. For example, in the case of the post-mistress, he had an elderly woman who lived next door to Ferrell's Mart and across the street from the post office call over there to tell the post-mistress that one of her carrier's vehicles was broken down between Bismarck and Cherry Ridge Road (the post-mistress replied that the Mt Storm route wouldn't have taken any of her carriers that way, and that was fortunately that). He observed and gathered information on those women well enough to determine what story he thought would be best to get them out to his selected location.


I don't know why Paul claimed to have had a romantic relationship with Cathy Ford. The only possibilities I see are:

Darvin Moon, Cathy Ford's then-boyfriend, seemed to be the perfect fall guy. He does have an extensive criminal history, and Paul Ferrell was, at the time, Mr. Squeaky Clean Sheriff's Deputy Golden Boy. Paul concocts what he believes to be a quite plausible tale that Cathy was frightened of her rough-neck boyfriend, who could've possibly been angered that Cathy was seeing another man. Darvin forces Cathy to flee the area and puts her vehicle right on Paul's property to set him up. Paul did mention Moon more than once in that fake letter from Cathy he sent to her parents.

OR

Paul apparently had a very rich fantasy life. Maybe he convinced himself that he in fact did share a romantic and/or sexual relationship with Cathy Ford. I'm not sure whether he did this because he really did desire one, or because he somehow was protecting himself mentally and emotionally by doing this. It seems somehow less loathsome and deviant that one would murder someone one has a very close relationship with than essentially a stranger.


In any event, I actually find Paul Ferrell fascinating. I'm not sure what to think about him. I don't know if he's intrinsically pathological, or if he was simply an otherwise fairly normal person who indulged his own idiosyncrasies and weaknesses to the point of criminal activity.

I feel the second-degree murder charge was appropriate. As I stated earlier, I don't think he premeditated anyone's murder. I think when Cathy reacted, he responded out of anger and/or fear. I think there is a very slight chance it could've even been an accident, although I don't think that is extremely likely. In any event, I do definitely think he murdered Cathy Ford and had some severe disturbances going on at the time the crime was committed, none of which excuse him from said crime.
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Old 03-07-2014, 06:44 PM   #15
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I would also like to point out a possible reason this case was even considered for Final Appeal. Martin Yant, the investigative journalist interviewed not only for this case but on UM's Circleville Writer segment, was actually credited as a consultant throughout Final Appeal's short run. He became aware of the Ferrell case while writing a book on wrongful convictions in the early '90s and was particularly appalled by the "expert" testimony of the FBI agent on Paul's body language.

So, that seems to clear that mystery up.
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