Slaying-Suicide Has Dyersburg Puzzled — (The Commercial Appeal)

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The Commercial Appeal

February 14, 1992

Author: Laura Coleman The Commercial Appeal []

Authorities on Thursday were trying to learn why the boyfriend of a woman awaiting a pancreas transplant shot her to death and then killed himself in their home near Dyersburg, Tenn., on Wednesday.

Tracy Ferguson, 27, was found dead in the mobile home she shared with Danny Pilkenton, 37, about a mile from Dyersburg. Her body was found at 4:30 a.m., about 90 minutes after a neighbor hearing gunfire called police, said James Motley, administrative assistant to Dyer County Sheriff Robert Willard.

Ferguson had been the subject of a fund-raising effort in the nearby town of Newbern to become eligible for a rare pancreas transplant, said George Butler of the Newbern Lions Club, which was helping to raise the money.

Butler said Ferguson suffered from a severe case of diabetes that was causing her kidneys to fail. He said doctors encouraged a pancreas transplant. The operation was to cost $40,000, and about $24,000 had been raised, Butler said.

He said organizers of the effort would meet to decide what to do with the money.

”They never caused any trouble or anything. We’d just like to know what the motive was,” Motley said. He said authorities don’t believe that the death was a mercy killing.

Nearby homes were evacuated shortly after officers arrived, Motley said. When police knocked on the door, they got no response. Shortly afterward, three shots were fired through the door. At 4:15 a.m., Pilkenton told Willard on the telephone that he had killed Ferguson and was about to kill himself. He hung up the telephone and fired one shot, Motley said.

Police tried to contact him, got no response, then threw tear gas into the home. When no one came out in 15 minutes, they entered and found Ferguson dead and Pilkenton wounded. Pilkenton died Wednesday night at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

Motley said a shotgun, a rifle and a pistol were found next to Pilkenton. Ferguson, who had been shot once, was found on a couch. Pilkenton initially told officers the shooting of Ferguson was an accident, then said he did it deliberately, Motley said.

Motley said authorities are baffled about a motive in the shooting, although he said friends reported that Pilkenton had been depressed since losing a job. He said Pilkenton family members said Pilkenton was taking Prozac, a medication for depression.

Record Number:  00045148