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Jamaican accused of killing wife in green-card marriage

Defense attorneys Willie Pura, left, and Darrin Johnson flank Orane Ferguson during his murder trial Tuesday. Ferguson is accused in the stabbing death of his wife.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Defense attorneys Willie Pura, left, and Darrin Johnson flank Orane Ferguson during his murder trial Tuesday. Ferguson is accused in the stabbing death of his wife.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Orane Ferguson met his wife at his brother's funeral. At only their second meeting, she suggested they marry.

He was Jamaican and, with his visa expiring, would have to return to his homeland.

It was never a happy union, and less than three years after they married, authorities say Ferguson killed his wife, stabbing her more than 50 times.

The 31-year-old is on trial this week, charged with first-degree murder in the July 20, 2008, death of Lenora Michelle Ferguson, 35. His attorneys don't dispute he stabbed her, but they say he was a man in a frenzy who had no conscious intent to kill his wife.

She was found dead on the floor of a guest bathroom in their home in the Ballantrae subdivision of Land O'Lakes. Ferguson told deputies who arrived, guns drawn, "Don't worry about her, she's dead."

The couple had argued, as they often did, and the struggle turned violent. Michelle Ferguson's 15-year-old son, Gabriel Neal, tried to intervene and save his mother. He suffered a stab wound to the chest and has recovered.

Ferguson faces life in prison if convicted as charged.

Ferguson took the stand Tuesday and described how their so-called green card marriage gradually took on more demands.

Michelle Ferguson began asking her husband for sex, he said, even though they had agreed initially to have no such relationship. Ferguson said he refused at first, but then his wife began threatening to stop cooperating with the immigration process.

"At that time, I felt like I had no other choice but to just do what she wanted," Ferguson testified.

Then, he said, Michelle Ferguson wanted to get pregnant. And if her husband refused, she wanted him to repay the thousands she'd spent on immigration.

He moved out for a time, worked odd jobs and eventually told her he wanted a divorce.

They agreed, he said, but then Michelle Ferguson floated the deal again: If he helped her get pregnant, she'd cooperate and help him get immigration papers.

He moved back in February 2008, but he said they soon started fighting again. Ferguson said he was forced to live under a curfew. He couldn't go out without his wife's permission. She checked up on phone calls he made.

"She was just controlling my life at that point," he said, all while threatening to derail his immigration.

Ferguson's testimony will resume today.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Jamaican accused of killing wife in green-card marriage 03/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 8:50pm]
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