Vampire cult leader goes to trial

Published Feb. 1, 1998|Updated Sept. 12, 2005

The afternoon before authorities say Heather Wendorf's parents were bludgeoned to death by her friend, Rod Ferrell, the 15-year-old girl and the self-styled vampire leader sucked each other's blood in a cemetery ritual.

Heather "crossed over" into being a fellow vampire during the ceremony, investigators say.

When Ferrell, 17, goes on trial Monday on first-degree murder charges, the real questions on everybody's mind _ questions that likely will be raised by defense attorneys _ are what role, if any, did Heather play in the murders? And why did she flee to Louisiana with Ferrell and other members of his so-called vampire clan after her parents' gruesome death?

Heather was cleared by a grand jury of criminal charges a year ago and could be an important witness during the trial. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

Among the evidence prosecutors hope to use are DNA samples they say link Ferrell to the murder scene and taped statements Ferrell made to investigators. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Richard Wendorf and Naoma Queen were found murdered Nov. 25, 1996, in their Eustis home, about 35 miles northwest of Orlando. Richard was beaten severely in the face as he lay on a family room sofa; Naoma was found facedown in a pool of blood in the kitchen.

A "V" sign surrounded by circular marks was burned into Richard Wendorf's body. Police said it was the sign of the Rod Ferrell vampire clan and each circular marked represented a clan member.

Clan members included Heather, now 16, in Florida, and three other teenagers from Kentucky. Howard Scott Anderson, 17, Dana L. Cooper, 20, and Charity Keesee, 17, are charged with being principals to slaying and are scheduled to be tried later this year.

Heather and Ferrell met two years ago at Eustis High School. Artistic and feeling trapped in a small town, Heather felt out of place at school. She wore black tights with cutoff shorts. She dyed her hair red, purple, blue and green, depending on her mood.

When Ferrell later moved to Kentucky, Heather stayed in touch. They wrote each other and talked on the phone frequently, at one point forcing Ferrell's mother to shut off her phone service because of a $1,000 bill.

Ferrell arrived in Florida by car with Anderson, Keesee and Cooper on Nov. 24, 1996, a day before the Wendorfs were killed. They stayed at the home of Ferrell's friend, Shannon Yohe, and made plans for Heather and Jeanine LeClaire to leave with them for Louisiana.

The next day, Ferrell and Heather went to the cemetery, where Heather was crossed over.

Ferrell reportedly announced later to Yohe that he was going to kill the Wendorfs and steal their car, and Heather told her boyfriend in a phone conversation that Ferrell had suggested killing her parents to make running away easier, investigators say.

Heather reportedly told her boyfriend that she would try to stop Ferrell if he tried to kill them.