Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


Ice, snow, murder and prosecutor Larry Ferrell

The snow and ice have created plenty of problems in the area. But for my four girls (and friends), it's been fun sledding. Favorite location? County Park North. The lake area was closed to traffic, meaning a side road was safe from cars and covered in ice, which made it more like riding a bobsled than anything else. But great fun!

Katy O'Ferrell's was packed Thursday night for a tribute to Larry Ferrell, who retired as Assistant U.S. Attorney after 26 years. Friends and colleagues arrived from around the country to toast and roast Ferrell. It was a private party, and I wasn't there to write a story, but it was fun listening to tales from Ferrell's career. Among the highlights were stories about his time in Iraq, where he helped establish the Iraqi justice system and played a major role in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein. His "Bagdad Buddies" provided context about fun, games and pranks (not to mention, danger) in Iraq outside of the work. Memories for a lifetime: It's no wonder more than a decade later they still gather annually.

Comments by those attending (judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials) often revolved around the idea of "equality before the law." With so many national policy issues convoluted by judicial and law enforcement partisanship, it was inspiring to hear so much about service and responsibility, spoken reverently, humbly, amusingly and honestly.

The tributes to Ferrell went on for a couple hours, so he kept his remarks at the end relatively short. But among them: "I've been blessed more than I deserve."

Talking about Ferrell, in the Weekend edition, the Southeast Missourian reprinted a story from The Charlotte Observer about a transformed career criminal who provided key information helping to convict local wife-murderer Clay Waller for an additional 35 years. Here is a section about the prosecutor and Cedric Dean, a prison inmate, whom Waller had approached to help him write a book.

From The Charlotte Observer

The break in the Waller case turned out to be a logistical one.

During their lengthy re-examination of Jacque Waller's murder, [Larry] Ferrell and his team discovered Clay Waller had spent the night before the killing with his girlfriend. She lived in Illinois. Which meant Waller had crossed state lines to end Jacque's life.

In May 2016, a federal grand jury in Missouri indicted Waller on a charge of interstate domestic violence. Soon, federal authorities were interviewing Waller's fellow inmates in the Louisiana prison. It was there they learned of a 3-year-old manuscript. They tracked it down at the Louisiana home of the inmate's mother who still had it.

They also became aware of Cedric Dean.

That October, Ferrell and an FBI agent traveled to a prison in northern Ohio to meet Dean face to face. The Missouri prosecutor carried a copy of the manuscript. He says he remained skeptical Dean had truly written it.

"I was a little bit pessimistic about it," Ferrell explained last month. "He hadn't finished high school. He'd gotten a GED in prison."

When Ferrell asked Dean where he learned to write, the inmate told him about his long-ago dissection of the crime novel in solitary confinement. Then he handed Ferrell one of his own books.

"It was on 'Thug-ology,'" Ferrell recalls. "Talk about a moment that stands out. He had become, you know, a significant writer. I got a guy here who has published a book."

Minutes into the conversation and without being shown the manuscript, Dean says he began telling Ferrell what was in the chapters. Then he began listing details of the killing -- "beyond what was in the book," Ferrell says -- that only Waller or investigators could know.

Dean says he told Ferrell how Waller had used soft drinks to clean blood from the walls of his wife's house; how he had cut off the fronts of a pair of very small shoes, which he wore to hide his own footprints.

Ferrell soon had heard enough.

A year later, after Waller and his attorneys learned of what Dean was prepared to say in court, the convicted killer pleaded guilty to the domestic violence charge. On Dec. 19, he was sentenced to 35 years. Waller also has been blocked from receiving money from any book deals.

Dean says he cooperated with authorities against his former writing partner for one reason only. Waller had killed once. Weeks of interviews with Waller had left Dean with an unshakable belief:

If given the chance, Waller would kill again.

"He told me he was trying to do the right thing with his book, but he lied," Dean said a few days before Waller's sentencing. "With that kind of morality, he didn't need to be going back on the street."

For the full story about Waller, Dean and Ferrell, visit semissourian.com.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.