Sacramento has proven to be a magnet for serial killers over the years. From Juan Corona, to Dorothea Puente, and The I-5 Strangler in between, the Golden State’s capitol city attracts more than it’s share of serial killers.
As we’ve seen, there have been times when the work of one killer gets overlooked because of other criminal activity. Morris Solomon killed seven Sacramento women as he worked as a handyman. His killings took place while Dorothea Puente was burying her victims in the yard of her F Street boarding house.
Joseph Ferguson is another of Sacramento’s forgotten killers. It’s especially ironic in that he wanted to be noticed for his spree killings. Technically, a mass murderer as opposed to a serial killer because there was no cooling off period between kills. Still a violent end for five Sacramento residents. Ferguson took interest in Nikolay Soltys, a Ukrainian immigrant who killed seven members of his family the previous month, in August 2001 in another Sacramento neighborhood.
On September 9, 2001, Ferguson, who had been employed as a security guard, came to work more agitated than usual. He was suspended from the job and sought out the people he held responsible. Fellow security guard Nina Susu broke off a relationship with him and told her supervisors that Ferguson had vandalized her vehicle. Ferguson tracked her to the city maintenance yard where she worked that night and gunned her down along with another security guard, Marsha Jackson. a 9mm handgun was left behind.
Ferguson’s rage then focused on George Bernadino, another security guard, who called in sick and Ferguson had to cover his shift. He found Bernadino and killed him, along with nineteen-year-old John Gilmstad, who had just started working at the city marina. Both men were found with bullet riddled bodies. Sacramento Police investigators recovered an AK-47 rifle at the marina.
Police began evacuating the homes and businesses of Burns Security personnel and located another female security guard handcuffed to a emu cage at the Sacramento Zoo. She told officers that Ferguson didn’t kill her because he thought she was a nice person. The killer stole her car and fled.
With Ferguson identified, investigators searched the home where he lived with his father and brother. A cache of weapons was uncovered, along with assault rifles, shotguns, revolvers, a ballistic vest and helmet, and with a gas mask. White supremacist literature was found in the home.
The trail went cold for nearly a day, until Ferguson went to the home of another Burns Security supervisor, Nikolay Popovich. He held Popivoch and his wife hostage and told them he was going to be bigger than Soltys, that he was going to kill more people that Soltys, and planned to go to a crowded place to carry out the rest of his shooting spree. Ferguson made a video tape and complained that the security company didn’t do enough for it’s employees, and that he would go down in history. He shot Popovich in the back of the head, but spared his wife.
Highway patrol officers spotted the stolen vehicle sitting at a traffic light in Rancho Cordova and as they approached, Ferguson stepped from the car and fired at the approaching officers. He jumped back in the car and led officers on a forty minute chase in Sacramento County until he lost control of the car and hit a light pole.
Ferguson kept firing at officers as they arrived at the accident location. It was estimated that he fired well over two-hundred rounds at officers, hitting one Highway Patrol Officer in the arm, and a citizen by-stander in the stomach.
Responding officers pulled their vehicle between the injured civilian and Ferguson to save the injured man. As officers closed in on Ferguson, he shot himself in the head. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Ferguson never got the attention he so desperately wanted. Timing is everything. The videotape that he wanted broadcast on the news stations, never aired. The media was gripped by something even bigger–two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. Ferguson’s story never aired.