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As Judge Reads Verdict, Convict Kills Himself

Jeffrey Sahl Ferris slit his throat in Fargo courtroom
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2021 6:11 AM CDT
Updated May 18, 2021 6:36 AM CDT

(Newser) – Upon learning that he would face a minimum of seven years in prison, a convicted man stood in federal court and slit his throat from ear to ear with a letter opener while the judge looked on, according to reports. The suicide occurred as a partial guilty verdict was being read at Quentin Burdick Courthouse in Fargo, ND, on Monday, reports Fox News. Jeffrey Sahl Ferris, 54 or 55, had been found guilty of using a firearm in the presence of a minor, per Native News Online. In 2019, he'd used a vehicle to chase away several minors from an abandoned building near his home on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in north central North Dakota. When one of the minors crashed a dirt bike, Ferris pointed a 9mm handgun at the youth on the ground, threatening to kill the person if they ever returned.

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Ferris acted after the jury had left the courtroom, but others were present, including US District Judge Peter Welte, who had just denied Ferris' request to be released for 24 hours before being returned to custody. Ferris then stood and slit his throat with what US Marshal Dallas Carlson initially described as a sharp object, possibly made of plastic. Sources tell Native News that it was a letter opener. "The guy turned around and you could see the inside of his neck," a witness tells WDAY, describing "blood all over the walls." Security officers and deputy marshals were unable to save him. Ferris was a descendant but not a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, per Native News. He was previously an emergency medical technician for Turtle Mountain's Belcourt community, where he lived. (Read more suicide stories.)

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