November 25, 1996
Richard Wendorf and Naomi Ruth Queen are bludgeoned to death in their home by the leader of a so-called vampire cult
On November 25, the couple’s 17-year-old daughter came home from school to find her parents’ bodies. Both had been bludgeoned to death with a crowbar, each receiving 20-30 blows to the head which smashed their skulls. The daughter called 911 to report the murders and also explained, “My sister’s gone. She should be here. She’s only 15 and she’s gone.”
Wendorf and Queen’s killer was apprehended — along with four accomplices including the missing 15-year-old daughter — in Louisiana three days after the murders, while driving the couple’s stolen car. Rod Ferrell, Howard Scott Anderson, Charity Keesee, and Dana Cooper were then arrested, as was the younger Wendorf daughter.
Ferrell, who had been classmates with the elder Wendorf daughter before he moved out of the state, was the leader of a “vampire cult,” in which Ferrell referred to himself as “Vesago,” the name of his 500-year-old vampire character from the tabletop role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. The supposed cult would participate in self-harm to produce blood in which to drink. During a taped confession, Ferrell was asked if he felt any remorse for killing Wendorf and Queen, to which he replied, “Why? Killing is a way of life. Animals do it and that’s the way humans are, just the worst predators of all actually.”
Why? Killing is a way of life. Animals do it and that’s the way humans are, just the worst predators of all actually.Rod Ferrell
The only member of Ferrell’s cult to not receive jail time was Wendorf and Queen’s 15-year-old daughter. She was released after the grand jury decided she had assumed she was simply running away and was unaware her parents would be harmed. The remaining four members each pleaded guilty to various charges related to the slayings.
Keesee and Cooper, who had been waiting in the car with the younger Wendorf during the attack, had been made aware of the murder plans but did not attempt to prevent them. Keesee explained, “I didn’t really believe he would do it. … My first thought was ‘He’s trying to scare us.” Keesee was sentenced to 10.5 years and was released in 2006. Cooper, the only participant over the age of 18, was sentenced to 17.5 years and released in 2011.
Anderson, who had accompanied Ferrell into the Wendorf home but did not participate in the fatal beatings, was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. His sentence was later reduced to 40 years. Anderson will be eligible for release in 2031.
Despite Ferrell also entering a guilty plea, he was sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to life after the Florida Supreme Court decided defendants who had committed their crimes as minors would be immune from capital punishment. As with Anderson’s case, the United State Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that juvenile offenders should not be given mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. It was added, however, the courts can deliver the sentence if the defendant “exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible.”
Ferrell was given a new hearing in 2020, to determine if he would be given a reduced sentence including the possibility of parole. His defense team attempted to demonstrate Ferrell’s diminished mental capacity at the time of the attacks, producing expert testimony stating Ferrell had been “under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance” at the time. Ferrell’s past was also brought into question by the defense, such as his traumatic childhood (including allegations of sexual assault by his grandfather as well as witnessing a woman being “sacrificed” by vampires, both of which occurred when Ferrell was 5 years of age), his history with drug use, and his interest in the occult.
The elder Wendorf daughter spoke at the hearing as well, imploring the judge to not reduce Ferrell’s sentence. She described how, decades later, she was still affected by the images of finding her parents murdered in their home, including her mother’s “brains scattered all over the kitchen” and the memory of wondering “where did his face go?” after finding her father’s body on the sofa. “When you lose someone who loves you so deeply,” she told the court, “you drown in a sea of emptiness and confusion without them.”
When you lose someone who loves you so deeply, you drown in a sea of emptiness and confusion without them.
The judge upheld Ferrell’s life sentence, finding him to be “irreparably corrupt.”
Stanfield, Frank. “‘Vampire Killer’ keeps his life sentence.” Daily Commercial. April 11, 2020. Accessed: November 25, 2020. https://www.dailycommercial.com/news/20200411/rsquovampire-killerrsquo-keeps-his-life-sentence
Hudak, Stephen. “Vampire killer Rod Ferrell should get a shot at parole, attorney argues.” Orlando Sentinel. February 4, 2020. Accessed: November 25, 2020. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-ne-vampire-cult-killer-rod-ferrell-20200204-dzuc2zida5eudexqqoai6aouxi-story.html
Stanfield, Frank. “Wendorf asks judge to keep Ferrell behind bars.” Daily Commercial. November 18, 2019. Accessed: November 25, 2020. https://www.dailycommercial.com/news/20191118/wendorf-asks-judge-to-keep-ferrell-behind-bars
Stanfield, Frank. “Psychologist to examine vampire cult leader Rod Ferrell.” Daily Commercial. October 23, 2019. Accessed: November 25, 2020. https://www.dailycommercial.com/news/20191023/psychologist-to-examine-vampire-cult-leader-rod-ferrell
Quigley, Kathryn. “Keesee’s sentencing closes book on case.” The Lake Sentinel [Orlando, Florida]. August 14, 1998
Stanfield, Frank. “Heather tells her side.” The Lake Sentinel. August 14, 1998
“Chronology of the Wendorf slayings.” The Orlando Sentinel. August 14, 1998
“Jurors hear tapes of ‘vampire’s” confession.” The Messenger [Madisonville, Kentucky]. February 19, 1998
Stanfield, Frank. “Cult holds missing pieces in Wendorf murder puzzle.” The Lake Sentinel. November 23, 1997