Tom Ferguson was shocked to find his brother and the actor naked on the bed having sex
Movie star Ramon Novarro wasn’t quite the devout celibate described in his early press cuttings. He had a penchant for rent boys and in the six months leading up to his death he had paid 140 prostitutes for their services. On Hallowe’en Eve 1968 he summoned two men to his home. At 5.30pm 23-year-old Paul Ferguson and his 17-year-old brother, Tom, arrived at Novarro’s home where he welcomed them with drinks and sent out for cigarettes from the local newsagent shop. The three carried on boozing while Novarro recounted anecdotes about his career.
All the Fergusons were interested in was a stash of $5,000 in cash that Novarro supposedly kept in the house. Tom Ferguson, feeling woozy, went outside to get some fresh air while his brother stayed in the living room where Novarro serenaded him on the piano. After a while Novarro suggested they go somewhere more comfortable and led Paul Ferguson to the bedroom.
When Tom Ferguson returned to the house he went looking for his brother and was shocked to find him and the actor naked on the bed having sex. Tom Ferguson yelled at his brother to get out and the younger man staggered back to the living room where he rang his girlfriend. After about three quarters of an hour he heard Tom Ferguson calling for him. When Paul went to the bedroom he was greeted by the sight of a blood-soaked room and Novarro lying half on the bed. He had three large gashes on the back of his head. The Fergusons dragged the semi-conscious Novarro to the bathroom where they dunked him under the shower. They put him back on the bed. The ailing actor dragged himself to his feet only to be discovered by Paul Ferguson who began to thrash him, splitting his skull and face as he struck. Novarro collapsed onto the floor and there drowned in his own blood.
Tom Ferguson came up with the bright idea of making the murder look like a robbery so the two brothers trashed the old man’s home. As a final touch Paul Ferguson placed the silver tip of the cane between Novarro’s legs. In the house they found just $45.
3110 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, North Hollywood, California, USA
Wednesday 30 October 1968
Thanks to forensic evidence and the 48-minute telephone call made by Tom Ferguson, the brothers were arrested two days later. They were tried in July 1969, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Fergusons were released in 1976.