BATON ROUGE, La (Reuter) - Louisiana police Friday were holding five teenagers from a self-styled "vampire clan" wanted in a double murder of one of the teen's parents in central Florida, officials said. Police from the Lake County, Florida, sheriff's department arrived in Baton Rouge Friday to begin questioning 15-year old Heather Wendorf and four other teenagers captured while trying to check into a downtown hotel Thanksgiving Day. The five teenagers were arrested on warrants charging first-degree murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Richard Wendorf, 49, and his wife Ruth Wendorf, 54, whose bodies were discovered by police late Monday in their home in Eustis, Florida, about 25 miles north of Orlando, police said. The teenagers were first reported missing in Murray, Kentucky, a small town near the western tip of Kentucky where they were known as members of "The Vampire Clan," a tight-knit, secretive group suspected of sucking blood from small animals and each other in graveyard rituals. "They like to cut their arms and suck the blood out of each other's arms," said Murray Police Sgt. Mike Jump. "In a ritual in a remote graveyard, they've been known to kill a small animal and suck the blood out of it, supposedly to give them more power."
On the run since warrants were issued Wednesday, the teenagers were arrested after a Baton Rouge patrol officer spotted the Wendorf' s 1994 blue Ford Explorer pulling into the parking lot of the hotel. "Apparently one of the suspects made a telephone call yesterday afternoon from Baton Rouge which was traced here, and we located the pay phone from where the call originated," Baton Rouge police spokesman Don Kelly said.
Extradition procedures were expected to begin Monday to send the teenagers back to Florida. "We're definitely going to get the juveniles back to Florida to stand trial," said Sgt. Cecil Garrett of the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
Autopsies showed Wendorf's parents both died of attacks to the head with a blunt instrument. There were no ritualistic signs connected with the deaths, police said.
The Associated Press
December 2, 1996
Vampire Cult Is Talk of Town
Murray, Ky. - For years, this quiet college town was perhaps best known as home of the national Boy Scout museum. Now it is newly notorious, and its residents are increasingly afraid, with the discovery that some of its teens belonged to a vampire cult. The news that four teenagers are suspected of beating a Florida couple to death was frightening enough. Now prosecutors say the youths were involved in a strange role-playing game that went much too far - from animal mutilation to drinking each other's blood and eventually to murder. Few would discuss the case with outsiders, but the cult was the hot topic of hushed gossip among residents. "People are talking about it," said Greg Duncan, sipping coffee at the Hungry Bear restaurant. "Some people are afraid." Details remain sketchy but the secretive cult known as "The Vampire Clan" is believed to have been active in Murray, where members were suspected of breaking into an animal shelter and mutilating two puppies. "The fear of the unknown is always greater than the fear of the known," said another man at the Hungry Bear, who declined to give his name. Murray, a town of about 13,000, lies in southwestern Kentucky near the Tennessee state line. Murray State University is there, a 8,300-student school known for its basketball program. Now the town is linked to three Murray teens arrested along with another youth from nearby Mayfield. All four, along with the daughter of the slain couple, were arrested on Thanksgiving night in Baton Rouge, La. All are suspected in the Nov. 25 slayings of Richard and Naoma Wendorf in their Eustis, Fla., home.
Police say Rod Ferrell met the Wendorf's 15-year-old daughter, Heather, when he lived in Eustis with his father. Ferrell, 16, moved back to Murray last year to live with his mother. It was Ferrell who police think broke into the animal shelter, killing one dog and hurting another. Neighbors at the public housing complex where he lived say they never noticed anything unusual about him or his mother, Sondra Gibson. Yet Sondra Gibson was recently charged with solicitation to commit rape. Police say she wrote to a 14-year-old, inviting sex and hinting she was involved in vampire-type activity. "I longed to be near you . . . to become a Vampire, a part of the family immortal and truly yours forever," the letter reads. "You will then come for me and cross me over and I will be your bride for eternity and you my sire."
Accused with Ferrell and Wendorf of killing the Wendorfs are Dana Cooper, 19, of Murray, and Scott Anderson, 16, of Mayfield. Charity Keesee, 16, of Murray, was charged with being an accessory to murder. Extradition proceedings in Baton Rouge are to begin today. Calloway County prosecutor David Harrington described Cooper as a "follower, someone who wanted to be liked. Probably easily manipulated." A young woman in a grocery store who had graduated from Calloway County High School with Cooper last year said the girl craved attention. "But this vampire stuff?" she asked, declining to give her name. "There was nothing that suggested that. She was just strange." Harrington said the youths were involved in an ongoing role-playing game, but that Ferrell had begun to take the vampire game more seriously, scaring others into quitting. "The animal shelter thing was the first visible sign he had gone beyond game-playing," Harrington said, refusing to disclose more details because the accused are minors.
Perhaps the most frightened man in town was Ferrell's grandfather, Harold Gibson. But his fears were for his grandson, not of the youth, whom he insisted was not the group's leader. And he said he is scared of the authorities. "What if they come after me?" Gibson said at his home Saturday, suddenly overcome by tears. "They're saying Rod is a monster. A monster! He's not a monster, he's not." Harrington was eager to write off the lurid story as an isolated escapade. "I think you had a group of kids that just wanted to be a part of something, wanted to belong to a group," he said. "And it went too far. Hopefully, it's over."