STARKE — A federal appeals court on Tuesday night blocked the scheduled execution of a mass killer convicted of eight slayings that jolted South Florida in the 1970s. Florida officials immediately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the stay.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision came during a flurry of court rulings over claims that 64-year-old John Errol Ferguson suffers from mental illness so severe he cannot be executed.
The Supreme Court did not immediately rule on the state's motion to lift the stay. The appeals court set a schedule for motions that could delay the execution at least until November.
In 1977, Ferguson and two other men bound eight people in a drug-related robbery in Carol City, near Miami, before shooting them. Six victims died.
Six months later, Ferguson, posing as a police officer, robbed Belinda Worley and Brian Glenfeldt, a teenage Hialeah couple. Glenfeldt was shot before Ferguson raped and killed Worley.
After his arrest, authorities linked Ferguson to the May 1977 deaths of Raymond and Katherine Berry, an elderly couple who had recently moved to St. Petersburg from Miami. The Berry's had returned to Miami to attend a funeral when they were tied up in their hotel room and shot. The couple was killed with the same gun used in the other murders, but Ferguson was never charged.