LAS CRUCES – A district court judge Wednesday sentenced Eugene “Gino” Ferri to three consecutive life sentences, a minimum of 30 years each, for fatally shooting an elderly Mesilla couple he had been feuding with as well as their business partner.
The 12-member jury deliberated for about two and a half hours before returning guilty verdicts against Ferri, 50, on all seven counts he faced – three counts of first-degree murder, two of tampering with evidence, unlawful taking of a vehicle and aggravated burglary.
Prosecutors said Ferri killed Gilles Delisle, 69, his 72-year-old wife Helga, and the couple’s business partner, 68-year-old California resident Peter Weith, on April 14, 2010, the day before a court-ordered auction of three properties that were owned by Ferri’s mother but from which Eugene Ferri derived income.
The auction was to satisfy part of a $1 million civil suit judgment the Delisles won against Ferri in 2008 over a debt. The auction was scheduled after the Delisles had managed to get the three Las Cruces rental properties separated from Ferri’s federal bankruptcy case.
The three victims were discovered when the Delisles failed to appear at the auction, and their attorney requested a welfare check.
“This case is about money, it’s about disrespect, and it’s about who’s going to get the last word,” special prosecutor Scot Key told jurors in closing arguments. Key called Ferri the “one person in the whole world” who had a motive to kill the Delisles and Weith.
Key and fellow special prosecutor Amy Orlando said they were pleased the jury was able to digest so much evidence over the course of the seven-day trial and return a verdict so quickly.
“Our community is safer because the judge imposed three life sentences,” Orlando said. “At this point, there’s no possibility of him getting out of prison.”
Investigators quickly zeroed in on Ferri as a suspect, but he was not arrested until a year after the slayings, shortly after a key witness, a friend of the suspect, began cooperating with police.
The friend, Ricky Huckabay, told police he had driven Ferri to the Delisles’ home on the day of the killing, then, as instructed, waited for Ferri at a park alongside the Rio Grande.
Huckabay testified that Ferri arrived at the park that evening in the Delisles’ Nissan Pathfinder, changed his clothes in a park bathroom, and bragged later that night about the slayings. The suspected murder weapon was later found at the bottom of a septic tank beneath the park bathroom.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell told jurors that receipts from several purchases, and a friend’s testimony, showed Ferri was nowhere near the Delisles home at the time of the killings.