Judge: Paul Ferguson ‘just as bad, if not worse’ than his mother

Posted at 11:53 AM, February 26, 2024

MUSKEGON, Mich. (Court TV) —  A Michigan judge told Paul Ferguson he didn’t believe that he was completely under his mother’s control as he was sentenced for the brutal child abuse that led to his little brother’s death.

Paul Ferguson and his attorney sit in court

Paul Ferguson sits in court during his sentencing on Feb. 26, 2024. (Court TV)

Judge Matthew Kacel sentenced Ferguson, 21, to 30-100 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a single county of first-degree child abuse. Ferguson pleaded guilty days after his mother, Shanda Vander Ark, was convicted of murder and child abuse in connection with her son, Timothy’s, death on June 6, 2002.

Ferguson testified at his mother’s trial and told the jury that he was manipulated by his mother into the brutal treatment of his younger brother. While Ferguson admitted to acting as the enforcer for his mother’s abuse, he had said that all the mistreatment had been at her direction. Judge Kacel rejected this argument and said that he believed the abuse was a “collaborative effort” between the two.

Ferguson addressed the court during his sentencing, saying that no words could voice his regret.

“I ask the judge for nothing more than mercy and fairness. To offer me compassion, so I might learn from him. I only hope to better myself in the coming days, and serve my time with what little honor I have left.”

Judge Kacel said that while the defense had argued that Ferguson was under his mother’s control and questioned whether he was on the autism spectrum, there was no evidence in the reports submitted to the court suggesting that he had any mental disease.

“This has been a careful, manipulated story from the very beginning of this thing,” Judge Kacel said. “He’s going to put the blame on his mom. ‘I’m going to be manipulated. I have Asberger’s Syndrome. I have autism. I have Stolkholm Syndrome.’ … The truth of this is that we have two individuals, two individuals that lack empathy, who lack emotion.”

While noting that Ferguson was not socialized properly and was, in part, a product of the environment in which he was raised, the judge expressed concern about his ability to reform. “The court is concerned that Mr. Ferguson will not get the help he needs in prison. I think he’s one step away from becoming a psychopath, like his mother, and the court is concerned that he represents a danger to the public. That, if released, he would present a significant danger to the public.”

Referring to Ferguson’s mother, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing Timothy, Judge Kacen said, “I think you’re just as bad, if not worse.”