Ferrell, who was 16 at the time of the murders, led what was known as the ‘Vampire Clan‘ — a group that authorities say had some 25-30 members.
In February 1998 Rod Ferrell was sentenced to death, but in November, 2000 the Florida Supreme Court vacated his death sentences and reduced them to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because he had committed the crime while still a juvenile.
Three other teenagers were sentenced as well, while a fourth — the daughter of the murdered couple — was exonerated. The four testified they believed Ferrell’s claim to being 500 years old, and they referred to him as their “maker.” They told investigators they were as close as a family.
Howard Scott Anderson pleaded guilty to being a principal to first-degree murder and was also sentenced to life in prison. It was originally planned that he would kill Ruth, but he could not do it, so Ferrell killed both Ruth and Richard. Howard joined Ferrell in robbing valuables from around the house. Like Ferrell, he was also 16 years old when the crime was committed.
Ferrell and Anderson left the scene in the couple’s Ford Explorer and picked up three others, including Heather. Three days later the group was arrested.
Charity Keesee and Dana Cooper pleaded guilty to a variety of lesser charges, which included knowing about Ferrell’s plan to kill the parents of a Heather Wendorf — the fifth member of the group.
Keessee was released from prison in March, 2006. Cooper was released from prison in October, 2011.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that mandatory life-without-parole sentences were unconstitutional for juvenile killers. But an appellate court in Miami has ruled that the high court ruling does not apply retroactively to those already sentenced. The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach agreed.
The ‘vampire’ aspects of the case led to a lot of speculation. Prosecutors said the teens were involved in a role-playing game that went much too far. According to police officers investigating the group, the teens drank blood from puppies they killed. They also cut their arms in order to suck each others’ blood.