By Amy Taxin
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California judge accused of killing his wife texted his court clerk and bailiff afterward to say he had shot her, prosecutors said Friday as they charged him with murder and sought new bail conditions.
A court filing from prosecutors says Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson texted: “I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody. I’m so sorry.”
Prosecutors also say that 47 weapons and more than 26,000 rounds of ammunition were recovered during a search of his home, including the pistol used in the shooting. Authorities said the weapons were legally owned. A rifle registered in his name is not accounted for, according to the district attorney’s office.
The shooting happened after Ferguson and his wife, Sheryl Ferguson, were arguing at a restaurant on Aug. 3, prosecutors said in their court filing. They continued arguing after returning to their home in the upscale neighborhood of Anaheim Hills. The court document says the wife said something to the effect of “why don’t you point a real gun at me?” and he pulled a pistol from his ankle holster and shot her in the chest.
The document says their adult son called 911 and said his father had been drinking too much and shot his mom.
Jeffrey Ferguson also called 911 to vaguely report the shooting. When asked if he shot his wife, he said he didn’t want to talk about it at that time and she needed paramedics.
When officers arrived, Ferguson smelled of alcohol and told them, “Oh man I can’t believe I did this,” according to the document.
Ferguson, 72, was arrested last week. He was released a day later on $1 million bail and is set to be arraigned on Sept. 1.
On Friday, prosecutors charged Ferguson with murder with weapons-related enhancements. They want him to surrender his passport, wear an ankle monitor and possess no alcohol or firearms.
Ferguson’s attorneys, Paul Meyer and John Barnett, issued a brief statement and declined to answer questions. “This is a tragedy for the entire Ferguson family. It was an accident and nothing more,” they said.
Ferguson has been a judge since 2015. He handles criminal cases in the Orange County city of Fullerton.
He started his legal career in the Orange County district attorney’s office in 1983 and went on to work narcotics cases, for which he won various awards. He served as president of the North Orange County Bar Association from 2012 to 2014.
In 2017, Ferguson was admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance for posting a statement on Facebook about a judicial candidate “with knowing or reckless disregard for the truth of the statement” and for being Facebook friends with attorneys appearing before him in court, according to a copy of the agency’s findings.
Ferguson said on his Facebook page that he grew up in a military family and traveled throughout Asia as a child. He went on to attend college and law school in California. He and his wife were married in 1996.