Neighbors and family members said they wondered who would want to kill James Vell Ferguson, 42, and Tina Towler, 45, the couple known for hosting cookouts and offering beer, shrimp and crabs to passersby.
“Have no idea,” said Paul Young, who identified the slain man as his brother. “But I would like to find out.”
A nurse for the 25-year-old disabled woman first tipped police to trouble at the complex of low-rise, red-brick buildings when she went to the sliding door of the couple’s apartment just before 8:15 a.m., according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case.
The nurse knocked at the unlocked door and, when no one answered, slid it open and went inside.
She found the man and the woman slain near their bed and the woman’s adult daughter unharmed in a medical bed next to it, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The officials said the man and the woman appeared to have been beaten and stabbed. An autopsy was planned for Friday morning.
The daughter, who has cerebral palsy, is a paraplegic and can barely communicate. She was taken to a hospital for observation, authorities said.
Julie Parker, a Prince George’s County police spokesman, said that neighbors reported hearing arguing inside the couple’s apartment about 5 a.m., although police were not called until the nurse arrived hours later. She said officers had been called to the apartment twice in February — first because the woman was missing and then because she had returned — and once on March 30, when someone dialed 911 and hung up. In that instance, she said, officers went to the apartment and found nothing amiss.
Pamela Ferguson, James Ferguson’s sister, said she last saw her brother Wednesday, when he accompanied her on a trip to the courthouse.
She said police had told her only that there were “two bodies” inside the apartment her brother shared with his girlfriend.
Young said he could not imagine who would want to hurt his brother.
“He’s very respectful, and he’s going to be truly missed,” Young said.
Neighbors said that Ferguson and Towler were friendly, enjoyed drinking, and seemed to constantly have people going in and out of their home.
Charles Collins, 28, a neighbor, said that Ferguson was a “good dude” who had a son in the military and that Towler stayed inside much of the time.
He said she had worked for Verizon and Ferguson worked intermittently doing home repairs.
“I just don’t understand why someone would want to kill them,” he said.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.