(Note: This story appeared in The Washington Post on March 22, 1995.)
A young life’s auspicious debut ended yesterday by the side of a road in northern Prince George’s County. Julie Lynn Ferguson, a popular, promising teenager, was found dead hours after she apparently was abducted from a Greenbelt shopping center where she had been waiting for two girlfriends to give her a ride home after work.
County police sources said Ferguson’s throat had been slit. Her purse and an open can of Coca-Cola were left behind by the curb where she had been waiting for her friends about 9:30 p.m. Monday, police said. Eight hours later, when her body was found by a road about four miles away, she was fully clothed, and there were no visible signs of sexual assault, according to a police source, although an autopsy has not yet been performed.
Ferguson was a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, about a quarter-mile from her job as a cashier at Linens ‘N Things in the Greenway shopping center, and about the same distance from the town house on Mandan Terrace she shared with her mother. Her father died when she was a year old, said Donna Martin, a friend of the family.
Sunny and 17, Ferguson had a fashion model’s good looks but also a grace that never made her appear preoccupied with her beauty, friends said. She was ambitious and hard-working, but not so consumed by her future that she could not enjoy being young and free.
“This girl is what you would want your daughter to be like if you had one,” said Gerald Boarman, her high school principal.
Martin said Ferguson was happy and spirited, a B student who played the flute and studied German, loved her black-and-white cat named Oreo and lived for trips to the beach with her girlfriends. She planned to go to college, but her choice of careers changed like the weather, Martin said.
“Oh, one day she wanted to be a lawyer, the next day . . . who knows what in the world she would have been. She was such a sweet girl,” said Martin, standing in front of Ferguson’s town house, clenching her fists.
Julie’s mother, Pam Ferguson, had recently bought an old car for her daughter so that she could get to work and school and home again. But “that old thing couldn’t pass inspection,” Martin said. Julie had to rely on her mother and friends for rides until repairs could be made.
She lived within walking distance of school and work, but her mother insisted she always wait for rides because “everyone knows how it is these days,” Martin said. Mother and daughter had talked just moments before Julie Ferguson left work Monday, and the teenager reassured her mother that her two friends were on their way to pick her up.
Boarman said he told the school’s more than 2,800 students of Ferguson’s likely abduction and slaying over the public address system shortly after school began yesterday morning. He said that school administrators had opened up a counseling center for students at the school and that at any one time, as many as 50 students were there, seeking solace and answers. At least 10 grieving students who took Julie’s death particularly hard were sent home, Boarman said.
Students organized a candlelight vigil to be held tonight on the school’s football field. Because Ferguson loved flowers, students plan to plant a dogwood tree in front of the school. Posters bearing the teenager’s name and asking for help identifying her killer were hung by students at the shopping center where she was last seen Monday.
“We’re like a big community here and this has kind of put us back a little bit,” Boarman said. “A lot of kids don’t feel safe anymore and I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to recover from that, or even if we will recover.”
The teenager’s body was found in the 12100 block of Daisy Lane in Glendale, a growing community of town houses and subdivisions about four miles from the plaza where Julie worked.
Violent episodes are uncommon in Greenbelt, but not unheard of. In January, the badly burned body of Donna Arrington, 23, was found in a thicket near Mandan Road. Police said she was assaulted and strangled and her body set on fire by a stranger whom she had stopped to ask for directions. A suspect has been charged in that case.
Boarman said it is difficult to extract any meaning from Julie’s death. “It’s trying to make sense out of senselessness,” he said.