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    Woman says suspect said he led slain girl from home

    The sister of indicted murder suspect Gary Cochran says he told her he lured Sharra Ferger into a field one night in October 1997 but didn't kill the girl.


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 26, 2001

    In a call from jail, maybe a year ago, maybe less, Clara Boone said her twin brother told her a secret.

    He said he was the one who lured his niece -- 9-year-old Sharra Ferger -- from her Pasco County home in the middle of an October night in 1997 with a greeting card and a promised "surprise."

    But Boone's brother, Gary Cochran, said that although he participated in an unexplained night of horror that ended with the girl's death, he didn't actually do the killing.

    Cochran was one of two men indicted last week in Ferger's killing. Gary Steven Cannon, 20, also was indicted. But according to Cochran's sister, there were actually three other people there that night, and Cochran has refused to name them.

    "He says, "Sis, I did not kill her,' " Boone said, recounting her phone conversation. "I said, "I believe you.' "

    Cochran is in prison on unrelated charges, and authorities have not said when or where they will charge him and Cannon in connection with the killing.

    Boone said her brother told her in a 60- to 90-minute phone conversation that he was drinking, using marijuana and crack cocaine when he lured the girl from her home in the northeast Pasco community of Blanton and led her to a field down the road. He didn't carry her or drag her, Boone said her brother told her.

    In the field, Boone said Cochran held the girl down while three men beat her with a baseball bat, a pipe and a hose and stabbed her with an ice pick.

    She was raped and left dead in the field.

    An autopsy reports the girl did not suffer a skull fracture, but had bruises and scrapes on her body. She had been stabbed 46 times. At least one of the wounds appeared to have been caused by something with a triangular shape, although many of the wounds appear perfectly round in close-up photographs.

    Boone said her brother insisted that though he did leave at least one of the bite marks on the girl's shoulder, he never touched a weapon.

    "He didn't molest her or rape her," Boone said.

    While Pasco County has been abuzz with rumors and questions about the killing, Boone explained her silence by saying she has been trying to live her own life, far from her family and a violent upbringing, and she has been trying not to get involved in the case.

    She said she traveled to Dade City from her Webster home in Sumter County on Friday to speak with investigators after hearing about the Thursday indictments.

    Investigators have so far been willing to discuss the case only in generalities, refusing to officially confirm anything until Cochran and Cannon are served with warrants and the indictment is unsealed.

    Boone said that if authorities would let her sit down and talk with her brother, perhaps she could persuade him to tell all he knows. She said he might be keeping quiet out of fear that someone would harm him if he talks.

    "He might open up to me," she said.

    Being a twin, and living through a violent childhood that included frequent drunken beatings, made Boone close to Cochran.

    "Gary took up for me," she said.

    Marijuana, she said, was everywhere. Her late mother, Ruth, often used it as a spice, even feeding it once to Boone's children, Boone said.

    Cochran was smoking marijuana by the time he was 10, she said.

    Boone said she was born attached by skin to her brother, back-to-back, one of three sets of twins of 18 children born to her mother.

    As a twin, she said, she feels what her brother feels and she knows when he is being truthful.

    "I know he didn't do it," she said.

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