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Faith is his foundation, O’Ferrell says

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Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 6:00 am

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4)

Wayne O’Ferrell flips through the large print Bible seeking his favorite passage. “My daughter got me a Bible with bigger print because I am having some eye problems,” the 74-year-old New Brockton man said as he read aloud the first four verses from Psalm 23. “That’s the main four verses right there. “Let me tell you I have read them so many times,” O’Ferrell said as he sat in a recliner in his New Brockton home recuperating from a recent surgery.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me,” O’Ferrell said rereading the last verse. “And believe me I have walked through it in the past 28 years.”

O’Ferrell shakes his head as he realizes that it was, in fact, nearly three decades ago that he was the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation that turned his world upside down.

“Sometimes I have to stop and think did that really happen to me” he said shaking his head as he remembered the morning the FBI agents met him at the door of his business, the “Surplus, Salvage and Thrift Store.”

At issue was a homemade bomb in a package delivered to the Mountain Brook home of a federal judge in 1989—one year earlier. The bomb killed United States 11th Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance and severely injured his wife. A similar bomb killed a Georgia civil rights attorney at his Savannah law office the same month.

Typewritten print on letters connected to the fatal mail bomb were traced to a typewriter that authorities believed was owned by O’Ferrell.

More than 100 FBI agents arrived in Enterprise over the course of the next several weeks. What retired Enterprise Police Chief Tim Byrd remembers most about that time is not only the number of FBI agents but also the influx of local, state and national media that came to cover the investigation.

Byrd said that he and then Coffee County Sheriff Bryce Paul had received phone calls from the FBI Mobile office. “They said that their special agent in charge was en route to Enterprise,” Byrd said Monday, April 16, recalling the phone call some 28 years ago. “That’s what brought the chaos to Enterprise.”

The FBI used Byrd’s office in the police department and the city council chambers in city hall as their headquarters. “The bottom line is that Wayne O’Ferrell never did it,” Byrd said.

“I’m standing there the whole time telling them I didn’t think (O’Ferrell) did it,” he added. “They were wrong. They rested their investigation on an erroneous polygraph.”

Media vans from major news networks and local stations lined Main Street in Enterprise and were camped outside of O’Ferrell’s home. “The FBI had told me not to talk to the news people so I didn’t talk to them,” O’Ferrell remembered. “But they were the nicest people you ever seen in your life.”

Byrd doesn’t exactly agree with O’Ferrell’s assessment. “The worst problem I had was the news people,” Byrd said. “I had (a reporter) put a recorder under my desk when I had stepped out of my office for a minute,” he remembered. “Needless to say, she lost her recorder.”

“The connection to it all was a typewriter,” O’Ferrell said. “The FBI claimed they went to the 11th Circuit Court to see who had a complaint with the government as a possible suspect.”

O’Ferrell told The Southeast Sun in a Jan. 23, 1990 interview that he had a federal court case against Gulf Life Insurance Company (from Jacksonville, Fla.) and that he had appealed the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, Ga. “All I told them was that I felt like the government had done me wrong.”

That comment was part of what prompted the investigation that included the search inside of a septic tank near O’Ferrell’s home. “They went in our house, under our house. I told them y’all ain’t going to find nothing because there ain’t nothing to find.”

The search also included a 15-acre lake outside his house. There the agents found a toy grenade. “And you ain’t going to believe this but they put it in a container and flew it to Washington,” O’Ferrell said laughing. “I have laughed about this. A toy grenade.”

O’Ferrell said that the law enforcers searched his Alberta Street warehouse, a former office on Main Street and his New Brockton home looking for a particular typewriter. “They seemed to think that one of our typewriters was used to address letters and the bomb package,” O’Ferrell said. “I am innocent and I cooperated in every way that I knew how.”

Although the typewriter believed to have been used in the bombing letters was the center of the investigation no typewriter was ever found and O’Ferrell was never charged with any crime.

Walter Lee Moody, 83, a Georgia man, was convicted in 1997 of mailing the bomb that killed Vance. Moody was ultimately convicted in federal court on 71 charges and sentenced to death.

The state of Alabama is set to execute Moody at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. Moody’s attorneys have filed a stay of execution motion.

O’Ferrell said he had heard media reports of the impending execution but holds no ill will towards Moody, a man he has never met. “One of the agents told me that they used me as a decoy to pull Moody out of the woods,” O’Ferrell said. “They thought I sold him a typewriter.

“I don’t know that the man done it, I’m assuming he done it but I’ll tell you just like I told the the FBI. I said I didn’t see the man do it so I’m not going to say he done it,” O’Ferrell told The Southeast Sun April 12. “I learned myself that you can’t always depend on what the FBI tells you.”

O’Ferrell said he has experienced an array of emotions as he has contemplated the series of events that he said turned his world upside down. “I was mad when I realized what they wanted. I was confused because they didn’t have enough sense to quit,” he said. “You know at one time I asked them to apologize.

“(FBI agents) carried me to city hall, fingerprinted me, but of all the trouble that they put me through, not one time did they arrest me. Not one time. They never charged me with anything,” O’Ferrell said. “I told them that when it was over I was going to expect an apology—and in 28 years they ain’t never had an apology yet.”

Business was good until the FBI came to town, O’Ferrell said, adding that even after the investigation was over, customers told him that they were being questioned by the FBI.

Closing up his Enterprise business operations, O’Ferrell stored his merchandise in a doublewide trailer that was next to his home because “nobody in Enterprise would rent to me.”

O’Ferrell ultimately rented a block building on U.S. Highway 167 up above Pea River. He operated a thrift store there until health issues forced him to close.

Today O’Ferrell lives in a mobile home near the New Brockton Senior Citizen Center that he says he visits daily. “When you live off of Social Security, you have to live off of it the best you can,” he said with a smile. “It’s better to laugh than to cry. In all this God has been so good to me.

“I’ve been near dead so many times but God ain’t through with me yet,” said O’Ferrell who has had 14 strokes, open heart surgery, three bypasses, and most recently foot and knee surgeries.

“Every night the first thing I pray is ‘God, if I die tonight when I’m asleep, just put your loving arms around me and just pick me up and carry me on back to be with you in heaven,’” O’Ferrell said. “And he’s going to do it because I know where I am going to be throughout all eternity.”

O’Ferrell said his advice to others “walking through the shadow of the valley,” is simple. “Pray and read that Bible,” he said “Don’t ever open a Bible without praying.”

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