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Geoffrey Kent FERGUSON





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Landlord - Dispute over unpaid rent - Arson
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: April 18, 1995
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1951
Victims profile: Scott Auerbach, 21; David Froehlich, 22; and Jason Trusewicz (tenants) / Sean Hiltunen, 22, and David Gartrell, 26 (guests)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Redding, Connecticut, USA

Status: Sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, 1998. Committed suicide in prison on May 7, 2003

State of Connecticut v. Geoffrey K. Ferguson

Geoff Ferguson had a rent dispute with the tenants of his house in Redding, Connecticut. He threatened his three tenants repeatedly, and on the night of April 18, 1995, after they were late with the rent, he decided to take action.

Geoff allegedly came to the house, shot the three tenants, two guests, and set the building on fire. One of the tenants, Scott Aurbach, managed to crawl out of the blaze and tell the emergency workers that, "Ferguson did it." Unfortunately Scott later died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

On June 11, 1998, disgruntled landlord Geoffrey Ferguson, was sentenced to life in prison for killing three tenants and two of their friends. "May you rot from the inside out," Dale Gartrell told Ferguson. Ms. Gartell's 25-year-old son, David, was one of the friends killed.

On May 7, 2003, Ferguson committed suicide in prison.


Officials seek N.C. man in house fire; 5 are slain

Greensboro News & Record

April 20, 1995

An arson fire gutted a house where a rock 'n' roll band practiced, and four people were found dead inside, burned beyond recognition, authorities said.

A fifth victim, Scott Auerbach, who had been shot in the head, escaped the flames but died a short time later at a hospital.


5 deaths, fire horrify town

Autopsy results in Redding case due today

The Hartford Courant

April 20, 1995

When fire engines screamed through the narrow streets of her rural Georgetown neighborhood the night before, Betty Churchill went out to help.

"All the neighbors were here. We thought with a fire we might be able to help, but there was nothing you could do," Churchill, 53, said Wednesday. "It was far worse than that."


Landlord suspect in 5 arson deaths

The Cincinnati Post

April 21, 1995

When Scott Auerbach and David Froehlich moved into their own apartment last September, they were two young men eager to taste the freedoms of life on their own.

Their friend Jason Trusewicz moved in a few months later. For a while, the trio enjoyed life away from their parents, playing loud music and doing as they pleased.


Landlord is arrested after 5 found slain

The Boston Globe

April 21, 1995

REDDING, Conn, -- State Police plan to question the landlord of a burned- out house where five men were found shot to death earlier this week in the midst of a dispute over unpaid rent in this southwestern Connecticut community.

Landlord Geoff K. Ferguson, who was being sought by Connecticut authorities for questioning in the deaths and arson at the apartment, was arrested yesterday at his home in Powells Point, N.C.


Landlord questioned in 5 slayings

The Phoenix Gazette

April 21, 1995

Five men found dead or mortally wounded in a house gutted by arson had been shot in the head, authorities said Thursday. Three of the dead were tenants who had been in a bitter rent dispute with their landlord, the victims' family and friends said.

The landlord, Geoff Ferguson, 44, was arrested Thursday at his home in Powells Point, N.C. Ferguson was charged in Connecticut with larceny and criminal lockout in the rent dispute.


Landlord Held In the Deaths Of Five Men In Connecticut

By Jonathan Ravinovitch - The New York Times

April 21, 1995

The landlord of a fire-ravaged three-family home in which five men died Tuesday night was arrested today in North Carolina as evidence mounted that the slayings resulted from a vicious landlord-tenant dispute.

All five victims, authorities said today, died of gunshot wounds to the head. Four bodies had been burned beyond recognition in the blaze, which broke out Tuesday evening around 6 and which the state police have labeled arson.

The landlord, Geoff K. Ferguson, 44, was arrested at his home in Powells Point, N.C., and charged on a fugitive warrant with larceny and criminal lockout of a tenant. Connecticut officials would not say tonight whether he would face murder or arson charges, but he was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail for an extradition hearing, possibly on Friday morning.

Dr. H. Wayne Carver 2d, Connecticut's chief medical examiner, said autopsies revealed that all five men had died of gunshot wounds to the head. Although he did not identify the victims, friends, relatives, and town officials said they were the three tenants -- Scott Auerbach, 21; David Froehlich, 22; and Jason Trusewicz, whose age was not available; Sean Hiltunen, 22, and David Gartrell, 26.

Jack Froehlich, the father of one victim, recalled that before the young men moved in on Sept. 1, Mr. Ferguson told them that if they caused any difficulties, he would go to the house from North Carolina and would be armed. It was a threat he repeated on at least one other occasion, Mr. Froehlich said.

The tensions between landlord and tenant began in March, when a rent check bounced, he said. According to court papers, Mr. Ferguson began eviction proceedings and also took direct, violent action.

He broke into the apartment, tore out the toilet and telephone, destroyed a sofa and threw a compact-disk player, a video-cassette recorder and other belongings into the driveway. "He did all this without provocation," Mr. Froehlich said. "He was out of control. The whole thing was out of control."

When the men returned, they estimated they were missing $3,000 worth of possessions, according to court papers. A few days later they sued Mr. Ferguson for damages, claiming that his actions constituted an illegal eviction. They also went to the police, and on Monday a warrant was issued for Mr. Ferguson's arrest, Mr. Froehlich said.

The young men also complained to town officials about conditions in the building. The plumbing was so bad the men had to use an outhouse, a town official said. At least two inspections by town officials discovered health and building code violations.

According to an April 10 letter from the town sanitarian, Roy C. A. Bradshaw, to Mr. Ferguson, there was no heat on the second floor, no toilet, a leaky roof and fire hazards. "Nonpayment of rent by a tenant does not entitle the landlord to deprive the tenant of heat, water, power, etc.," Mr. Bradshaw wrote to Mr. Ferguson.

Mr. Ferguson had moved to North Carolina from Connecticut last year with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, according to the postmaster of Powells Point, Dora Newbern. She said Mr. Ferguson worked as a handyman and his wife worked as a special education teacher in nearby Pasquotank County.

Ms. Newbern said the Fergusons lived in one of the better neighborhoods in Powells Point, where houses sell for $90,000 to $120,000.

In Redding, a community of 8,000, the victims were remembered today as happy-go-lucky young men, a close-knit circle of friends who had been active in the Boy Scouts and were enthusiastic volunteer firefighters.

Neighbors said they sometimes played rock 'n' roll late into the night, jamming among themselves, but they apparently never had any troubles with the law or school authorities.

"I would send my 15-year-old daughter over there when they were playing, and I wouldn't trust her to just anyone," Mr. Froehlich said. "I never heard any of them utter a profane word, and they were always polite and generous."

Except for Mr. Trusewicz, all graduated from Joel Barlow High School here. Susan Haig, the assistant principal, called them "good kids," naming several activities, from school theater productions to the wilderness survival program.

Although they were not outstanding high school students and had not gone on to college, they were finding their way as adults, several town residents said.

After the dispute broke out between the young men and Mr. Ferguson, town officials discovered that Mr. Ferguson had illegally converted a single-family home into a three-unit building without receiving the necessary permits. The house is in a zone in which multifamily dwellings are prohibited.

In two letters to Mr. Ferguson earlier this month, town officials ordered him to resolve these violations within the next 10 to 24 days.

Late this afternoon, Mr. Froehlich, a retired mechanical engineer and father of eight, choked back tears as he talked about his son.

"He was not a good student," Mr. Froehlich said. "He smoked cigarettes and I often got on him for the wrong reasons. But David had more friends than I ever had. He was always up, always smiling. I was after him about things he didn't do. I'm sorry to say I missed the things he did, and now he's gone."


Witness says he saw suspect at arson site

The Virginian-Pilot

April 22, 1995

As Connecticut police continued investigating a torched house where five young men were killed, local law enforcement officers Friday searched the Powells Point home of the victims' landlord.

Geoffrey Kent Ferguson, a 44-year-old handyman who moved to Currituck County in December 1993, is being held on Connecticut larceny and illegal lock-out charges at the Currituck jail. His bond is set at $500,000. An arraignment is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday in Pasquotank County.


Landlord charged in slayings

N.C. man's tenants killed, house burned

The Charlotte Observer

April 22, 1995

When Scott Auerbach and David Froehlich moved into their own apartment in Connecticut last September, they were two young men eager to taste the freedom of living on their own.

Their friend, Jason Trusewicz, moved in with them a few months later, and for a while, the three roommates enjoyed the privileges of life away from their parents: They played loud rock 'n' roll and came and went as they pleased.


Man accused in deaths of 5 extradited to Conn.

July 20, 1995

A North Carolina man accused of killing five men in Connecticut was sent back to that state to face murder charges after he lost a last-minute attempt to block his extradition Wednesday.

Geoff K. Ferguson, 44, of Powells Point, N.C., was to be arraigned in Superior Court in Danbury, Conn., this morning.


Landlord killed five men over bounced rent check

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

April 25, 1998

A landlord was convicted yesterday of murdering five men in a feud that started with a bounced rent check.

Geoffrey Ferguson, 47, was found guilty of fatally shooting three of his tenants and two of their guests in 1995 and then setting the Redding apartment house on fire to cover up the crime.

Each of the men was shot in the head; four of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Ferguson faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.


Mass murderer quotes Celine Dion song at sentencing

NORWALK, Conn. (Reuters) - A landlord who shot and killed five young men in a dispute over rent recited lyrics from a love song by Celine Dion as his only statement Thursday before being led away to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Geoffrey Ferguson, 47, a self-employed handyman, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Norwalk Superior Court.

Three of his tenants and two of their friends, aged 21 to 25, were shot in the back of the head execution-style at a house in Redding, Conn., on April 18, 1995. Their bodies were then set afire.

John Froehlich, the father of victim David Froelich, told the killer: ``You never met our son. Your first encounter with David was when you sadistically murdered him. May you rot from the inside out,'' Geoffrey Ferguson.''

The life sentence was automatic, following his April 24 conviction in one of the most chilling mass slayings in Connecticut history.

Connecticut prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty because they felt some of the evidence was too circumstantial to win a conviction.

Just before Ferguson was sentenced, the only words he spoke were the lyrics to Dion's song, ``Because You Love Me.''

The ponytailed, handcuffed Ferguson stood in the packed courtroom and read aloud from a letter sent to him by his wife, Keri, who was not present.

He said his wife wrote the letter to express her love and support for him. It included lyrical snippets from the Dion song, such as, ``You are always there for me,'' ``You gave me wings,'' and ``You're the one who saw me through it all.''

After quoting brief passages from the song, Ferguson sat down and said nothing else. Ferguson, who has a five-year-old daughter, showed no emotion.



Murderer commits suicide in prison

The Hartford Courant

May 8, 2003

A North Carolina man convicted of killing of five people at a house he owned in Redding eight years ago took his own life Wednesday morning in a state prison, police said. The office of the chief state medical examiner said Geoffrey Ferguson, 52, who was serving a life sentence for capital felony and arson convictions, died as a result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation -- tying something around his neck. Police said he did not hang himself.


Killer commits suicide in Connecticut prison

Associated Press Archive

May 8, 2003

A landlord convicted of gunning down three of his tenants and two other young men in 1995 committed suicide Wednesday morning in prison, police said. Geoffrey Ferguson, 52, was pronounced dead about an hour after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the Garner Correctional Center, where he was serving a life sentence without a chance of parole. An autopsy determined Ferguson strangled himself, but police said they were unsure what he used.



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