Rod Ferrell did more to damage the image of the vampire community than anyone. Prior to the crimes of Ferrell and his vampire clan, criminals have been labeled vampires by the media, such as Richard Trenton Chase. Chase never claimed to be a vampire, he was labeled one due to the fact that he drank the blood of his victims. It was easy for the vampire community to distance themselves from that sort of behavior. It was much more difficult for the community to distance itself from Rod Ferrell, Ferrell wasn’t labeled a vampire by society or the mass media, he was a self-identified member of the subculture, he was active in vampire role-playing games, his friends (and accomplices) were members of his coven. He associated with other members of the subculture.
Author, TV Personality, and spokes person for the vampire community Michelle Belanger had this to say about Rod Ferrell:
How can a community with no clear definition of vampirism place themselves in a separate category from a disturbed killer like Ferrell? When Belanger was asked this question in a phone interview, she described her desire to say that Ferrell is not a vampire and that his actions were completely unrelated to the community but conceded that she could not do so. There is evidence that Ferrell and Jaden had access to the print media used by vampire networks in the mid 1990s (Laycock, 2009, p.155).
While Athena Research Group feels that any sort of self expression is positive, the sad but true fact is that every culture or subculture will have a few bad apples that cast a negative light on the entire group. While not every member of the vampire subculture is a killer, just like not every Muslim is a terrorist and not every Christian bombs abortion clinic. This research report is meant to shed light on the life and crimes of Rod Ferrell.
Any research on Rod Ferrell will reveal that he was suffering from some sort of psychological disorder. He was unable to differentiate fantasy from reality. While other members of the community, members of his coven, and role-playing group understood that they were engaged in fantasy, Ferrell on the other hand thought that everything was real. Ferrell was also an admitted substance abuser. He has claimed that he was sexually assaulted by his grandfather when he was five years old and had participated (against his will) in a black mass at the same age.
Rod’s mother Sondra Gibson was also suffering from psychological problems:
Because of all the turmoil between her and her parents, Sondra had quit School at age sixteen. She felt persecuted and misunderstood by the system so she really didn’t feel right about forcing Rod to attend. When she was Rod’s age, Sondra was a misfit. Even though she was pretty with a cute button nose and wide set gray eyes nobody paid any real attention to her. At age 17 she got pregnant, was married and divorced and was being accused of being an unfit mother by her father.
In truth after Rod’s birth, Sondra did feel unfit. She was outcast from t he teen society at school, she hated going to church and because she was different she never held a real job in her life.
In between husbands Sondra had been a professional dancer, a street prostitute, and a welfare recipient. (Jones, 2000, p. 85)
Sondra was never much of a mother to Rod. Research indicates that instead of parenting her son, she took on a friend role. Instead of forcing him to attend school and attempting to curb his more bizarre behavior or at the very least making sure that he received counseling or some sort of care, she allowed his behavior to continue.
During Rod’s trial Sondra was experiencing legal problems of her own. Sondra had been arrested for sending sexually explicit letters to the younger brother of Jaden Murphy; Rod’s Sire and friend. Saying the Ferrell family had a unique family dynamic is an understatement.
Rod was interviewed by psychologists and psychiatrists during his trial, this is what they found:
Among other things Rod was diagnosed as suffering with schizopypal personality disorder somewhat similar to a schizophrenic Rod’s personality seemed fragmented. Other psychological stressors had to do with frequent geographical moves, cult activity, alleged child abuse impaired peer relations and his chaotic family system. (Jones, 2000, p. 362)
The doctor’s report described Ferrell’s many suicide attempts as something Rod did because he was feeling like he was immortal and sort of providing that to himself. Evidently Rod was quite unhappy person he seemed to suffer from different kinds of hallucinations and persecution complexes. Rod claimed he started hearing voices when he was age 3. He exhibited odd perceptual experiences. Rod described hearing things, seeing things even tasking and feeling things that weren’t based in reality. (Jones, 2000, p. 363)
The experts testified that Rod had a mother who was psychologically younger than he was. They said that as a child Rod had nobody to raise him. After interviewing 35 year old Sondra for over 3 hours. Dr. Meyers concluded that she had the mentality of a 12 year old. (Jones, 2000, p. 370)
Rod had been reporting psychological disturbances since childhood. Before he became actively involved in the vampire community Rod was beginning to lose touch with reality. It was not the vampire community that caused these problems. It was most likely a combination of his family environment and substance abuse which led to these conditions. Not the subculture that he became involved with. “Schizotypal personality disorder, or simply schizotypal disorder, is a personality disorder that is characterized by a need for social isolation, anxiety in social situations, odd behavior and thinking, and often unconventional beliefs.”( Schizotypal personality disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, n.d.) Much like Schizophrenia, schizotypal disorders have a genetic component meaning that the disorder can be passed from family members. Based on the bizarre behavior of Sondra Gibson she may also have been suffering from the disorder. Again, Rod was more than likely attracted to the vampire subculture because of the fact that they were a group of people that would not find Rod odd or strange for his manner of thinking. Rod had lost touch with reality before entering the subculture, not because of it.
Rod had met Heather Wendorf when he was a student at Eustice High School in Eustice, Florida. Both teens shared an interest in the gothic culture, the occult, and vampires. They remained friends even after Rod and his mother moved from Eustice to Murray, Kentucky. It was in Kentucky that Ferrell met Steven “Jaden” Murphy (the leader of a Vampire Coven).
In November of 1996 Ferrell and several other members of his coven (Dana Cooper, Charity Lynn Keesee and Howard Scott Anderson) drove to Eustice with the intention of taking, or possibly kidnapping, Heather Wendorf from her family. In conversations with Ferrell she would claim that her parents were controlling and that she hated them. After her arrest she claimed that she had no prior knowledge that Ferrell intended to murder her parents.
While it remains unclear as to whether Rod had intended to murder Heather’s parents the entire time or whether he made that decision later on in the trip, what is known is that Ferrell had no murder weapon. He found the crowbar that would be used for the murders in the Wendorf family home.
Also forensic evidence indicated that this was a crime of hate and anger:
The findings: Mr. Wendorf suffered 22 chop wounds, mostly skull fractures and brain lacerations causing his death. The male victim had also been wounded in his right chest area, having been lacerated with a blunt object as well as marked with a symbol resembling a V.
Mrs. Wendorf had some bruising that indicated a struggle samples of skin were taken from under her fingernails. The female victim has suffered a cut o her lower right arm a laceration around one knuckle and another cut on her left hand and on her ring finger. Aside from the defensive wounds Mrs. Wendorf had been stuck 21 times 16 of those being sharp wounds to the head. Like Mrs. Wendorf she had been hit with some blunt object possibly a crowbar. A large depression had been made in her skull the brain stem had been lacerated all the way through. Mrs. Wendorf’s skull had been beaten so hard a 3 inch hole remained where the brain had been cut through. She had practically been decapitated. (Jones, 2000, p. 290-291)
This indicates overkill; Ferrell went above and beyond what has necessary to cause death. It is unclear as to why so much overkill is present. Was he angry over the mistreatment he thought Heather was receiving at the hands of her parents? While that may be the cause I find that unlikely, instead I believe that Ferrell was so angry at the Wendorf family because they offered their children something that Rod himself had never received, that being a stable home life. The Wendorf family was reported to be affluent. They lived in a nice home. Rod on the other hand came from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.
Ferrell, Anderson, Cooper and Keese all pled guilty. Only Heather was acquitted. Ferrell was given a death sentence and is currently on death row. Anderson was given life in prison without parole. The two girls were only found guilty of third degree murder and were given lighter sentences. Cooper received 17 years, Keese 10. (Laycock, 2009, p. 152)
Jones, A. (1999). The embrace: a true vampire story. New York: Pocket Books.
Laycock, J. (2009). Vampires today: the truth about modern vampirism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Schizotypal personality disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizotypal_p