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Orange County judge charged with murder in wife’s slaying

Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson has been charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife last week in their Anaheim Hills home.

The judge, 72, was arrested on Aug. 3 after his son called emergency dispatchers to say his mother, 65-year-old Sheryl Ferguson, had been shot.

The judge was taken into custody, spent one night in jail and posted $1 million bail.

On the evening of the slaying, according to papers filed by prosecutors late Thursday, Ferguson and his wife got into an argument over dinner at a restaurant, where he threatened her “by making a hand gesture indicative of pointing a gun at her.”

The argument continued when the couple returned home, where Sheryl Ferguson said, “Why don’t you point a real gun at me?” or something similar, prosecutors said in the court papers.

The judge, intoxicated, then pulled a Glock .40-caliber pistol from his ankle holster and shot her in the chest, the bullet exiting her back and hitting the wall behind her, prosecutors said.

The judge’s adult son, who called 911 and tried to perform CPR on his mother, said his father had been drinking too much, prosecutors said.

The judge himself later called 911 to say his wife needed a paramedic, but when asked if he had shot her, he said he didn’t want to talk about it, prosecutors said.

However, according to the D.A.’s office, the judge texted his court clerk and bailiff, saying: “I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody. I’m so sorry.” The recipients initially thought the text was a joke, prosecutors said.

Ferguson smelled of alcohol and was still wearing the empty ankle holster when police took him into custody, prosecutors said.

He asked officers to shoot him, according to prosecutors, and made remarks that were captured by police body camera: “What an ass— I am,” “Oh, man, I can’t believe I did this,” and “I guess I’m done for a while.”

Police took a sample of the judge’s blood to measure its alcohol content seven hours after the shooting, by which time it measured .06%, below the legal limit for intoxication, according to court papers.

Ferguson’s son told police that his mother had once talked the judge out of shooting himself, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors will ask the court to impose additional bail conditions on Ferguson. Among their concerns: a missing rifle.

Though Anaheim police confiscated 47 firearms in a search of the judge’s home, plus more that 26,000 rounds of ammunition, detectives were unable to find a .22-caliber rifle that is registered in his name, according to the district attorney’s office.

Police missed still another rifle in their search of the judge’s home, though Ferguson’s defense attorney later found it and handed it over, the D.A. said.

Among the extra bail conditions, prosecutors will ask that Ferguson surrender his passport and his permit to carry a concealed weapon, possess no guns and wear an ankle monitor.

In a motion to set Ferguson’s arraignment for Tuesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Chris Alex asked the court to limit contact between the defendant and his adult son, described in court papers as the only eyewitness to the homicide, in order “to prevent any degree of risk or undue influence upon Son.”

Prosecutors will also ask that the judge avoid alcohol altogether.

Though its prosecutors appeared before the judge regularly until last week, the Orange County district attorney’s office is handling the case, citing a decision by the state attorney general’s office that there is no conflict.

Ferguson, who was a local prosecutor himself for more than three decades before becoming a judge in 2015, faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted of current charges.

“This is a tragedy for the entire Ferguson family. … It was an accident and nothing more,” Ferguson’s attorneys, John Barnett and Paul Meyer, said in a statement, according to City News Service.

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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