The murder of a 7-year-old in 1990 that has haunted a North Carolina community for 24 years has finally been solved. The body of Shalonda Poole was found in the woods behind her elementary school in July 1990, sexually assaulted and strangled. Her family never gave up hope ... and this week a family friend who "helped" them look for their missing daughter has been arrested!
The main suspect back in 1990 was a mentally disabled cafeteria worker, but he was found not guilty two years later. Fast forward two decades, and police say advancement in forensics helped them nail Donald Preston Ferguson, now 52, for the murder and assault of the little girl all those years ago.
If they got the right guy, he sounds like a real creep. This is a guy who Shalonda's parents say was actually sitting at their kitchen table, playing cards with the family, just DAYS before the murder of their 7-year-old. Ferguson even helped the family look for their daughter before she was found!
I don't know about you, but I just breathed a big sigh of relief that he's behind bars, and I don't even know this family!
Can you imagine what life has been like for them for 24 years, sitting, wondering? Shalonda had a twin sister, and Marilyn Poole's story of trying to talk to her about her sister's death just tears at my heart:
She used to ask me all the time, ‘Where is my sister?’ I couldn’t explain it to her — why God came to get her sister.
Having another child, they had no choice but to pull themselves together and try to move on as a family, but let's be real: you never really put the murder of your child behind you. It's just not possible.
Not to mention the fear of what that person might be doing to other kids ... that stays with you.
As it turns out, Ferguson was arrested just months later, in October of 1990, for sexual assault. He stayed in a South Carolina prison until 1997. He's been on active probation since his release, but living in South Carolina. For at least seven years, he couldn't hurt any other kid, but who knows what has happened since.
The good news is now he's in prison and facing charges of first-degree murder and first-degree sex offense. This could spell the end of it all ... and provide some much-needed closure for the Poole family.
What do you think the punishment should be here?
Image via Spartanburg County Jail