Julie Ferguson finished her shift at Linens ‘N Things around 9:45 pm on Monday, March 20, 1995. After the 17-year-old clocked out, she called her mother, Pat Ferguson, and let her know that she didn’t need a ride home; some of her friends were going to be picking her up. Julie said goodbye to her co-workers and left Linens ‘N Things, which was located in the Greenway Shopping Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She then walked to a liquor store that was in the same shopping center and purchased a can of soda.
By 9:50 pm, Julie was back in front of Linens ‘N Things. She sat down on the side of a flower planter and opened her can of soda while she waited for her friends. Several witnesses recalled seeing her there, but when her friends arrived at 10:00 pm, Julie was nowhere to be found. Her friends could see where she had been sitting — her can of soda and a plastic bag containing some of her belongings were on the ground near the flower planter — but they were unable to find Julie anywhere in the shopping center. They noted that her soda can was still wet with condensation, indicating that she couldn’t have been gone long.
Julie was known for being a very responsible teenager, so her friends were immediately concerned that something might have happened to her. One of them placed a call to Julie’s mom to see if she knew where Julie was, but she told them that Julie should have been at the shopping center waiting for them.
Pat Ferguson knew that Julie wouldn’t have gone off without telling anyone; if she wasn’t where she was supposed to be, something was wrong. She rushed over to the shopping center, hoping that by the time she arrived Julie would be there with a good explanation for where she had gone, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. When Pat saw Julie’s belongings still sitting on the sidewalk, her heart sank. She was certain her daughter had been abducted; she immediately called the police and reported Julie missing.
Julie wouldn’t remain missing for long; her body was found less than eight hours later in a park off of Daisy Lane in Glenn Dale, Maryland, four miles away from the shopping center where she had last been seen. Two men who were walking to work had discovered her body around 5:30 am; it didn’t take police long to determine that the victim was Julie.
It was clear that Julie had met a violent end. Her throat had been slashed from ear to ear and she had been strangled; she had a number of bruises and defensive wounds on her arms and hands. Detectives were unable to determine the motive behind the brutal attack, but they ruled out sexual assault and robbery. Julie was fully clothed when she was found and her jewelry was untouched.
Julie’s identification card was found on the median of Greenbelt Avenue, about halfway between the Greenway Shopping Center and the park where her body was found. This was the only item of hers that was recovered after the mur*der; her purse, along with several other items that she carried in it, has never been found.
Julie’s mur*der rocked the Greenbelt community. She was a friendly and popular teenager with no known enemies, and she had vanished from a well-lit shopping center that had always been considered safe. Greenbelt was known for having a very visible police presence, and it was common to see police cruisers driving slowly through the Greenway Shopping Center parking lot while on routine patrol.
Unfortunately, the shopping center had no surveillance cameras at the time of Julie’s mur*der, so detectives had to rely on eyewitness accounts to piece together the teenager’s final movements. They interviewed a number of people who had been at the shopping center that Monday night; several people confirmed that Julie had been sitting outside around 9:50 pm, apparently waiting for her ride.
One witness recalled seeing Julie talking to the occupants of a red or burgundy Volkswagen Jetta that had pulled up alongside the curb in front of Linens ‘N Things. She had been under the impression that Julie had known the people inside the car, as she was leaning in one of the car’s windows while she talked to them. The Jetta had been from the mid-1980s, and there were three people inside, two men and one woman.
Another witness came forward and told police that they had seen two of the three occupants from the Jetta inside the liquor store shortly before Julie vanished. One of the occupants was a black woman in her late teens or early twenties, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 140 pounds. She had short dark hair and was wearing a dark coat, jeans, and white sneakers. She was accompanied by one of the male occupants of the Jetta, a black male in his late teens or early twenties, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a slender build. He was clean-shaven with a neat appearance; he had been wearing dark pants and a multicolored silk shirt.
Detectives became even more interested in finding the occupants of the Jetta after a Greenbelt resident came forward to report seeing a similar car in the area shortly before Julie’s body had been discovered. The witness, who lived off of Daisy Lane, had driven past the park in the early morning hours and noticed a red or burgundy Jetta pulled over on the side of the road. The car’s headlights were on, but there was no one inside it. When the witness drove past again a short time later, the car was gone.
Police appealed to the public for help in identifying the Jetta and its occupants, but no one came forward with any information. Detectives would eventually release sketches of two of the people who had been seen in the car, but they refrained from calling them suspects. Since they had been seen in the shopping center around the time that Julie vanished, detectives believed they might have witnessed something that could help in their investigation.
Julie’s friends were devastated by her m*urder, and they did everything they could to help detectives find her k*iller. They told investigators that Julie never would have willingly gotten into a car with someone she didn’t know, leading detectives to speculate that Julie might have known her ki*ller. They spent weeks interviewing her friends, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors; none of them were able to shed any light on why Julie might have been targeted for mu*rder.
Julie, who had been a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, appeared to have gotten along with people from many different social groups. Detectives were unable to find anyone who had anything negative to say about her. Eventually, investigators seemed to rule out the possibility that Julie had known her ki*ller. They believed it was far more likely that Julie had been ki*lled by a stranger who had somehow managed to abduct her from the shopping center.
By August, detectives had conducted more than 100 interviews and had followed up on close to 300 tips, but all had led to de*ad ends. Although Julie’s family and friends did what they could to keep the case in the public eye, it was clear that the investigation was beginning to stall. Tips stopped coming in, and detectives had investigated all leads but had been unable to develop any real suspects. By the end of 1995, the case went cold.
Investigators took another look at the case in 2000. Several local newspapers ran articles about the case on its fifth anniversary, and the publicity resulted in several new tips. Detectives made a renewed plea for information about the three people who had been seen talking to Julie on the night she vanished, but they remained unidentified.
Detectives also looked into the possibility that a local mechanic, Doug DaSilva, was involved in Julie’s mu*rder; he had previously been convicted of rape and he lived close to where her body was found. On paper, he looked like a viable suspect, but his DNA didn’t match that which had been found at the mu*rder scene. Despite this, detectives have been reluctant to rule him out and believe he may have played some role in Julie’s abduction. When he was initially interviewed by detectives, he made some statements they felt were incriminating and he was unable to provide an alibi for the night Julie was k*illed. Unfortunately, he has since left the Maryland area and police have been unable to locate him for further questioning.
It has been more than 26 years since Julie was mur*dered, but her family and friends continue to do everything they can to obtain justice for her. They refuse to allow Julie to be forgotten, and they have been instrumental in making sure the public never forgets that Julie’s ki*ller has not yet been found.
Detectives believe that there are people out there who have the information they need to finally close this case and arrest the person or persons responsible for Julie’s murd*er. They are still trying to identify the three people who were in the Volkswagen Jetta as well as determine the current location of Douglas DaSilva. If you have any information about the mur*der of Julie Ferguson, please contact the Prince Georges Police at 301–772–4925.