Unsolved Rock Hill murder frustrates family a year later

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comApril 20, 2013 

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    If anyone has information about Jamar Ferguson’s murder, call the Rock Hill Police Department at (803) 329-7200 or York County Crimestoppers at (877) 409-4321.

— A year later, Patricia Boulware still expects her son to walk into her living room and make her laugh.

He doesn’t, and his grieving mother only cries when she speaks his name.

“It’s been rough on me,” Boulware said. “I’m used to seeing him; thinking he’s somewhere working. It hurts me every day.”

Jamar Ferguson hasn’t walked into his mother’s Simrill Street house since April 20 last year —the day he was gunned down by a seemingly unknown assailant while cutting through a path from Taylor Street to Adams Grocery on South Wilson Street, becoming Rock Hill’s third homicide victim of 2012.

Ferguson, 31, was rushed to Piedmont Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:30 a.m. April 21, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said. He had been shot multiple times.

Hours before her son was killed, Boulware left a longtime management job at a Rock Hill Burger King. She and her sister, Sandra Gist Miller, had just finished packing for a cruise to the Bahamas.

Ferguson joked that he didn’t think she should go on vacation without him. She agreed and promised they’d vacation together this year.

Bullets cancelled those plans.

Family members say Ferguson left home after meeting his mother when she got off work April 20. Just before midnight, he walked to Adams Grocery on South Wilson Street, taking a wooded path on Taylor Street that crosses over a railroad track and leads to the store.

“It’s dark through that path,” said Bianca Ferguson, his sister. “There’s only one street light in the darkest corner.”

Bianca Ferguson has heard a lot of rumors about what happened after brother left the store. One popular theory is that there was a confrontation between Ferguson, a friend and several other men, she said. Once the fight ended, Ferguson walked away.

Then, gunshots went off.

“He was hunted down like a deer,” Bianca Ferguson said.

Sandra Gist Miller was at work when she got the phone call about her nephew.

Boulware, sobbing on the other line, was incoherent. Gist Miller handed the phone to a co-worker, who took note of everything Boulware told her. The woman told Gist Miller that Ferguson had been shot.

Stunned, “and still stunned today,” Gist Miller left work and went to her sister’s house.

A week later, she helped organize a vigil and prayer walk in her nephew’s honor. Family and friends walked from Simrill Street to Taylor Street, carrying signs and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Ferguson’s face before erecting a memorial in his honor.

Occasionally, she visits Ferguson’s grave, behind her church, and tells him: “Don’t worry.”

Gist Miller says she’s a praying woman, one who believes in God and divine justice. She’s also an aunt, one who goes to Boulware’s house still expecting to see her “clown” of a nephew.

Sometimes, she’ll ask, “Where’s Jamar?”

One time when she asked the question, she and Boulware just stared at each other. Then, they both cried.

Gist Miller doesn’t visit as often as she used to.

No closure

Ferguson’s death has left two children, 10-year-old Cianna Ferguson and the 9-year-old son who bears his name, without their dad.

“It’s been hard for these kids,” Gist Miller said. “It’s a left a void in their lives.”

And, not knowing who killed their father has left them without closure, said their mother, Kaleena Arcelay.

Arcelay and Ferguson had been together for five years before they separated. Still, Ferguson “tried to do the best he could.”

The kids visit their father’s grave occasionally. They’ll plan another trip soon, Arcelay said, and put new flowers on the marker.

When he wasn’t caring for his own children, Ferguson watched after his nieces and nephews.

For them, “he was like a father figure,” Gist Miller said. Ferguson would get off work and make sure all the kids had something to eat. He didn’t spend time in the streets, instead opting to sit on his front porch and watch while the children played in the yard.

He’d walk them to the bus stop each morning, but still managed to watch his favorite television shows — In the Heat of the Night and Matlock.

Each Thanksgiving, he prepared the ham, turkey and gravy.

“He was the man of the house,” his aunt said.

For most of his life, he had no choice. Ferguson’s father died when he was young. Boulware remarried, but that man died, as well.

“(Ferguson) did it all,” from rigging the television to fixing broken faucets.

He held down a job in Charlotte before a temporary layoff. He was scheduled to return to work the Monday after he was killed.

‘Code of silence’

Walk down Taylor Street and turn left, you’ll find a small white wooden cross buried a few inches into the ground dressed with a wreath of red flowers. It’s the spot where Ferguson was shot. The cross replaces a similar memorial family members and friends erected weeks after Ferguson died.

Weather and time wore on the first one.

Taylor Street on a recent night was quiet, almost as quiet as it was the hour Ferguson died, when neighbors and nearby residents claimed they didn’t see anything, hear anything or know anything.

That attitude still prevails, according to police, and is an obstacle for authorities trying to gather definitive answers.

“There’s a ‘code of silence’ in Rock Hill,” said Rock Hill Police Executive Officer Mark Bollinger, adding that, without credible information or witnesses, police have hit a roadblock.

“We do need help,” he said.

Ferguson’s family knows about this “code of silence.”

“People are scared for their safety,” Bianca Ferguson said.

Word on the street is that one of the men responsible for firing the shots that killed Ferguson is already in jail on other charges. Other rumors allege one of the people responsible is still walking free in the southern Rock Hill community.

Boulware had dreams about Ferguson’s death, where she says God has shown her that three men confronted her son. Two of them shot him in the legs, she said. The last one shot him in the head to earn a teardrop tattoo on his face —a rite of passage for gang members.

But dreams aren’t solid evidence, and police are frustrated.

“We have names that we’ve heard,” Bollinger said. “But we don’t have concrete information to go forward with warrants.”

Last May, police arrested Harvey McKee Jr. in connection with Ferguson’s slaying. A month later, he was released from jail when prosecutors dismissed the murder charge with the right to restore, agreeing with McKee’s defense attorney that they didn’t have enough evidence for a successful prosecution.

McKee spoke with The Herald after his release from jail last summer, denying any involvement in Ferguson’s death and accusing police of using one person’s comments to lock him up.

He declined to comment for this story.

McKee, Bollinger said, is no longer considered a suspect.

“We know someone knows what happened,” Bollinger said. “We need folks in the community” to come forward with information.

Bollinger was unable to detail what rumors and information police have received thus far. He did say that Ferguson was seen at Adams Grocery before he died, but he could not confirm if a fight took place.

“What happened after that is part of the investigation,” he said.

Forensic evidence was recovered from the scene, he said, but it all belonged to Ferguson.

Police regularly meet with prosecutors to discuss the case, and other unresolved homicides that occurred around the same time last year, said Willy Thompson, deputy 16th Circuit solicitor.

He said he couldn’t discuss information shared at those meetings.

“I can tell you that the Rock Hill Police Department is continuing to work on these unsolved homicides,” he said. “One of the biggest hurdles they face is the unwillingness of citizens to speak with them.”

An employee at Adams Grocery who family members said was working the night Ferguson was killed said he left work at 9 p.m. that Friday. He said another employee closed the store, but that employee was on vacation this last week.

For a year, people have approached Boulware, telling her rumors and giving her “false hope,” Gist Miller said.

“It’s all hearsay,” Gist Miller said, adding that she’s heard numerous rumors that never pan out. “It gets (Boulware) excited, but it’s still a dead-end. Instead of talking to her, they should talk to the police. They’re really upsetting her.”

One woman —“a total stranger,” Boulware said—once came up to her and told her not to worry.

“Your boy put up a good fight,” she told Boulware.

Just on Friday, a man in tears walked up to Boulware while she was in Adams Grocery. All he told Boulware was “sorry.”

Boulware hopes cash might be the right incentive for answers. She plans to sell food, put on car washes and collect money in donation jars to raise funds for a $1,000 award she’ll give anyone with “concrete” answers about her son’s murder.

Law enforcement has already offered a cash reward through York County Crimestoppers, which will bestow an anonymous caller with money in exchange for information that might lead to an arrest.

“People keep coming to (the family)...they aren’t really helping,” Gist Miller said. “Let the police know what’s going on.”

Why?

To whomever killed her son, Boulware has a simple request: “I just want to know why.”

Gist Miller has found some closure.

Ferguson’s killer, she said, has got to “go to judgment.”

“I believe in God. I know He’ll fix it. Jesus will fix it,” she said. “I know He will not let this go untouched.”

“I miss my brother,” said 30-year-old LaQuanta Ferguson, Jamar’s oldest sister who tattooed her right arm with several of his trademark sayings, including: “Yeah right,” “It’s real” and “You wanna bet?”

Then, beneath it all, it reads: “RIP J-Furg.”

She, too, has a message for the gunman.

“What if it was (your) family member?”

So does Bianca Ferguson.

“Do the right thing.”

And, Boulware again: “How would they feel if it was their child…their brother?”

“How do they sleep at night?” Boulware still asks a full year after her only son was shot to death.

“Who knows?” Gist Miller said. “They might not.”

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