MALVERN – The Chester County District Attorney’s office Tuesday charged an acquaintance in the death of a 21-year-old man who was found shot to death near his home in the borough Monday evening.
Authorities identified 24-year-old Merritt Dudas of Collegeville as the suspect who is charged with murder, robbery, theft and abuse of a corpse.
Drew Ferguson, a 2011 graduate of Great Valley High School living in the 200 block of Miner Street, was the victim, police said.
According to Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, the investigation found the attack was not random and the two men had known each other for years.
Hogan said for a period of time Dudas lived in the home next to Ferguson and then with Ferguson at the residence on Miner Street when Dudas was without a place to live.
Dudas was arrested by police on Tuesday and confessed to the killing, Hogan said.
Hogan said there appeared to be an argument between the men, perhaps over drugs or property, but said he was unsure what the motive for the killing was..
“The argument by any definition was senseless,”
Ferguson was reported missing by his mother, who spoke regularly with her son, but only received the pre-recorded voice-mail message when she called him.
On Thursday, Hogan said, Ferguson returned to his residence on Miner Street where he lived with his grandparents. He stayed home from work Friday telling his grandmother he didn’t feel well.
On Friday afternoon, his grandmother noticed Ferguson’s car was missing and she could not locate him at the home after searching the detached garage where Ferguson spent his time working on cars and listening to music.
Ferguson’s grandmother assumed he spent the weekend with his mother in West Caln, but neither she nor his mother saw him again.
After the missing person report was filed, Malvern police began a search for Ferguson Monday at the home on Miner Street. After entering the second floor garage, police noticed a bullet hole in the window and immediately called Chester County Detectives.
Detectives found three bullet holes and one shell casing from a .380-caliber gun along with a few blood spots on the floor. Further inspection led them to the back of the room where, under a collection of tarps, electronic equipment and a chair, Ferguson’s body was found wrapped in a sleeping bag.
An autopsy revealed he was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head.
Detectives interviewed Ferguson’s mother and grandmother who described the missing car. Ferguson’s mother said she reached out to acquaintances of her son when she didn’t hear from him, including Dudas’ girlfriend, who told her Ferguson was fine and was spending the weekend at a friend’s cabin, according to police.
Attention began to center on Dudas after the mother and grandmother confirmed threats had been made in the past.
“At that point the detectives moved into high gear,” Hogan said.
Investigators quickly located Ferguson’s car at Dudas’ girlfriend’s home in Collegeville and moved in to approach the residents.
Inside the home police found Dudas, his girlfriend and her father. Police also recovered Ferguson’s phone, car keys, wallet and the missing shell casings along with a .380 caliber handgun, Hogan said. The girlfriend’s father indicated he was missing a gun and ammunition of that caliber.
The girlfriend admitted to taking Dudas to Malvern Friday and that Dudas returned with Ferguson’s car on that Saturday, Hogan said.
Dudas was taken into custody on Tuesday.
“A tragic and senseless murder, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that in a very short period of time this was extraordinary police work,” Hogan said, indicating police did in 24 hours what should have taken about two weeks.
Dudas’ girlfriend is cooperative at this point, according to Hogan, and is not facing any charges at this time.
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