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Vampire Cult Trial To Begin Monday

February 1, 1998

TAVARES, Fla. (AP) _ Animal torture and mutilations, teens drinking each other’s blood, a girl’s parents bludgeoned to death and a corpse marked with occult markings.

Sounds like stock elements of a horror movie, but on Monday jury selection was set to begin in the trial of a teen-ager whose alleged vampire cult is accused of committing all of the above acts.

Accused cult ringleader Rod Ferrell, 17, could face the death penalty if convicted of a charge of first degree murder.

Ferrell is nervous, especially about whether it’s possible to find jurors in this rural area who have not heard about the lurid case, says his lawyer William Lackay.

``I think it’s going to be hard but not impossible,″ Lackay said of his chances for success.

Important to the case is the testimony of Heather Wendorf, a 16-year-old cult devotee whose parents were beaten to death in their home in November 1996.

That afternoon, Miss Wendorf and Ferrell _ a friend who was the cult’s ``sire″ _ performed a blood drinking ritual in a cemetery to induct, or ``cross over,″ her as a fellow vampire, according to investigators.

``The person that gets crossed over is like subject to whatever the sire wants,″ Miss Wendorf said in a deposition. ``Like the sire is boss basically. They have authority over you.″

In the cemetery, investigators say, she and Ferrell talked about their plans to leave town. Ferrell allegedly discussed killing Miss Wendorf’s parents, but she told him not to harm them, investigators allege.

Ferrell, Miss Wendorf and others had plotted for seven months through letters and phone conversations to run away together. Considered misfits when they met at Eustis High School, the two found solace in each other’s company. When Ferrell later moved to Kentucky, they stayed in touch.

On the day they left town, they left behind the corpses of Richard Wendorf and Naoma Queen, prosecutors charge.

The two were found bludgeoned at their home in Eustis, about 35 miles northwest of Orlando. Wendorf was beaten severely in the face; Queen was found face-down on a bloody kitchen floor.

A ``v″ sign surrounded by circular marks was burned into Wendorf’s body. Police said it was the sign of Ferrell’s vampire clan and each circular mark represented a clan member.

Only Ferrell is charged with the actual killing. Another teen, Howard Scott Anderson, 17, is accused of being a principal to murder by being at the house but doing nothing to stop the killings. He faces the death penalty despite the reduced charge.

Charged with being accessories to murder are Kentucky teens Dana L. Cooper, 20, and Charity Keesee, 17. They do not face the death penalty.

The two were not at the house at the time but later left town with the others in the Wendorfs’ stolen car. All five were caught a few days later in Louisiana. Miss Wendorf was cleared by a grand jury.

Although his lawyer says he’s nervous, friends have described Ferrell as hostile and prone to animal torture.

He may have had a troubled family life as well. His mother, Sondra Gibson, pleaded guilty in Kentucky last November to trying to entice a 14-year-old boy into having sex as part of a vampire initiation ritual.

John Goodman, a Kentucky cult member who didn’t travel with Ferrell to Florida, said his friend ``had become possessed with opening the Gates to Hell, which meant he would have to kill a large number of people in order to consume their souls. By doing this, Ferrell believed that he would obtain super powers.″

When questioned by investigators, Miss Wendorf said the only reason she went with the group was because she had no place to go and feared she would be blamed for the murders. She said she learned about the murders during the trip and was distraught at hearing her parents were dead.

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