The horrifying discovery of two bodies in a Laurel, Maryland apartment early one morning in May 2013 stunned the neighborhood. While Tina’s daughter was found unharmed, Tina Towler and her lover James Ferguson were brutally killed at their home. The American Detective With Lt. Joe Kenda: What She Saw on Investigation Discovery describes how police eventually apprehended the killer using biological evidence. Let’s investigate what happened, shall we?
How did James Ferguson and Tina Towler die?
Jasmine Gilbert, who then had cerebral palsy and was 26, was raised by her 45-year-old mother, Tina Lynn Flower. She was a Verizon employee and James Vell Ferguson was her boyfriend. The 42-year-old was considered a welcome figure in the community, occasionally working for a building contractor. On the evening of May 1, 2013, a nurse came and watched her.
The next morning, around 8am, another nurse who came to the house to tend to Jasmine found a horrifying find in the bedroom. Jasmine lay unharmed in the corner of the room, her face covered with a sheet. Tina and James’ bodies were lying on the floor. In addition to significant damage from blunt force injuries, the couple also suffered multiple stab and lacerations. James was stabbed eight times compared to Tina’s six.
Who Murdered James Ferguson and Tina Towler?
The bedroom at the crime scene was clearly the scene of a fight. The police took a bloody towel and a jackknife from the bathroom, which they assumed to be the murder weapon. A broken flashlight that was used in some of the beatings was also discovered in the bed. The bedroom door showed evidence of a break-in. Beer cans and a glass bottle containing PCP were also found in the garbage. According to the autopsy, Tina and James had alcohol, cocaine, and PCP in their systems.
Thurston Lamont Yerby was identified as a suspect after detectives focused on the couple’s social group. He was reportedly sharing an apartment with Tina’s ex-husband at the time. He chatted with Norman Gary, his wife, his mother and the mother’s companion on May 1, 2013. Thurston once tried to grope Norman’s mother, which led to an argument and Thurston was forced to leave. Thurston then drove off at around 10:00 p.m. in a white SUV.
Around 10:50 p.m., one of Tina and James’ neighbors recalled seeing a white SUV outside the apartment. Additionally, surveillance footage from the apartment complex at the time of the murders showed Thurston’s vehicle entering and exiting. When questioned, he claimed that he was not involved in the murders, adding that he left Norman’s house at around 10:15 p.m. and went straight home. When the interview was over, Thurston even took the water bottle and cigarette butt instead of submitting a DNA sample.
Eventually, Thurston’s fingerprints and DNA samples were collected by authorities. One of the beer cans bore his fingerprints. Also, both the cans and the blood-stained towel contained Thurston’s DNA. Also, Tina, James and Thurston’s DNA was found in a bloodstain on the sink. Another connection was that the knife handle appeared to have Thurston’s biological profile.
What happened to Thurston Lamont Yerby?
Thurston Lamont Yerby had a past love affair with Tina, and prosecutors claimed that this relationship may have contributed to the murders. They hypothesized that James entered the room while Thurston was sexually assaulting Tina, sparking a fight that led to the murders. They were beaten with a vase, pan, pot and flashlight.
The defense, on the other hand, cited the presence of PCP, a substance known to have psychotic effects, in Tina’s and James’ systems. Despite this, Thurston, who was 49 at the time of his sentencing, was serving two consecutive 30-year sentences after being found guilty on two counts of second-degree murder in November 2015. According to prison records, he is still being held at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Facility.