NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — A man has been charged with abuse in connection with the death of his teenage brother; their mother has already been charged with the teen’s murder.
Paul Byron Ferguson, 20, was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree child abuse in the case of 15-year-old Timothy Ferguson.
“In any case, the investigation never really ends as detectives continue to look through evidence and follow leads,” Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson told News 8 Friday. “Through the course of this investigation, over the last, I’d say, 24 hours, it was clear to me after speaking with investigators and hearing what they’ve since uncovered that the brother had some culpability, if you will, as it relates to the death of this young man.”
Last week, Timothy’s mother, Shanda Vander Ark, was charged with open murder and first-degree child abuse.
“It’s sad that a young 15-year-old lost their life for no real good reason at all,” Hilson said, “and it was done under the care and custody of his mother and older brother.”
Timothy Ferguson was found dead July 6 at the family’s home in Norton Shores. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, listing the cause of death as a combination of multiple factors, including malnutrition and hypothermia.
Vander Ark allegedly denied Timothy food, fed him only bread or bread soaked in hot sauce, poured hot sauce down his throat and placed him in an ice bath the day before his death — believed to be the cause of the hypothermia — prosecutors said in court last week.
Citing ethical obligations, Hilson would not explain exactly what Paul Ferguson is accused of doing, saying only that “allegedly, he did play a role in some of the things that happened to this 15-year-old.” The prosecutor said more information would come out in court. He did confirm that Paul Ferguson lived at the home with Timothy and their mother and that Timothy’s living space was no larger than a closet.
“…(Timothy) was sort of hidden away and so to discover what was happening to him would have taken some divine intervention or a miracle but unfortunately, it was his death, and that, to me, is what is truly tragic,” Hilson said. “…With other adults in the living arrangement … there’s help there. To me, that’s what’s troubling about Paul’s involvement in this case, is that there was, technically, another adult in the room that could have probably prevented this young man from dying.”
“We believe that (Paul Ferguson) has a role and is accountable for what happened,” Hilson added.
The prosecutor previously told News 8 that Timothy had “some sort of incapacity or mental incapacity.” He did not have additional details Friday.
Hilson said Paul Ferguson’s bond was set at $500,000 cash or surety bond.
“That’s pretty significant and right for the charge that he’s been charged with,” he said, adding he doubted Ferguson would come up with the money to post bond.
If convicted, Ferguson could spend the rest of his life in prison. Hilson said he has no previous criminal record.
A 7-year-old also lived in the Vander Ark home; that child has been placed in the care of the state.
—News 8’s Byron Tollefson contributed to this report.
*Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the date of Timothy Ferguson’s death. We regret the error, which has been fixed.