‘Just shoot me’: Orange County judge was distraught after killing wife, witnesses say

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Dispatched to a shooting at the Anaheim home of an Orange County judge, police found Jeffrey Ferguson sitting on a planter.

“Just shoot me,” Ferguson told the officer who approached with a less-than-lethal shotgun trained on the judge.

Witnesses recounted the scene at Ferguson’s home at a preliminary hearing Thursday, where a judge ruled there was probable cause to believe that Ferguson had murdered his wife, Sheryl, after they bickered over money at dinner in August.

The Fergusons’ 22-year-old son, Phillip, called 911 around 8 p.m. Aug. 3 to report that his father had just shot his mother, Anaheim police officers testified at the hearing.

Standing in handcuffs outside his home that evening while officers tried to revive his wife inside, Ferguson let off a string of expletives before saying, “What did I do? My son will hate me forever,” testified Officer Joshua Juntilla of the Anaheim Police Department.

“Can you have my son come over here and punch me in the face?” the officer said Ferguson asked. “I deserve it. I got everything I got coming.”

Crying, his breath smelling of alcohol, Ferguson apologized to his son, who had witnessed the homicide, and asked whether his wife was dead, Juntilla testified. The officer recalled Ferguson saying he was just like the criminals he once prosecuted as an Orange County deputy district attorney.

Inside the Fergusons’ home, police found Sheryl lying face up near a sliding glass door, shot once in the abdomen. A Glock handgun was on the kitchen’s tile floor. In the cluttered family room was an overturned leather chair, a bullet lodged in the back of it with blood around the entry point. A single cartridge casing lay on the carpet.

Anaheim Police Det. Michael Nguyen interviewed Phillip that night at the police station. He wore pajama bottoms, a T-shirt and no shoes; his hands were coated in dried blood from trying to revive his mother, Nguyen said.

According to the detective, earlier that evening Phillip had gone with his father and mother to dinner at El Cholo, where his parents resumed their perennial argument about money. His father had made his hand into the shape of a gun and pointed it at his mother, who walked out of the restaurant, the younger Ferguson told investigators. The three of them then returned home and watched “Breaking Bad” together in the family room, as they did every night.

After the episode ended, his mother started arguing again about money. Phillip got up to leave. As he reached the rear sliding door, he heard his mother say, “Why don’t you point a real gun at me?”

Phillip turned and saw his father holding the .40-caliber Glock he always carried in an ankle holster. Without saying a word, his father shot his mother, he said. Phillip jumped over a couch and wrestled the gun from his father, thinking he might use it to kill himself, he told police. Ferguson then told Phillip to call 911.

Phillip said his parents had fought often about the family’s finances, but the arguments had never before turned physical. He believed Ferguson may have shot his mother in a drunken accident, noting his father had fired a bullet several years earlier through the tile floor of a bathroom. Police seized 47 guns and more than 26,000 rounds of ammunition from the home, prosecutors said at the time of the judge’s arrest.

At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Ferguson’s attorney T. Edward Welbourn asked Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter to dismiss the murder charge, noting his client’s son — the only eyewitness to the homicide — said he believed it was an accident.

Hunter disagreed. “While I appreciate the son’s opinion that this was accidental — bless his heart — he’s in a horrible position,” she said. Hunter said the evidence showed that Ferguson understood the danger inherent in pointing a gun at another person.

Hunter, who heard the case in Los Angeles due to the conflicts posed by Ferguson’s ties to the bench in Orange County, ruled she’d seen enough evidence for Ferguson to stand trial for murder.

Ferguson remains free on $1-million bail with GPS and alcohol monitoring restrictions.

More to Read

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.