• Freed convicted murderer accused of threatening children

    By: Gary Horcher

    Updated:

    When Ferne Wooldridge of Vancouver, Washington, found out 60-year-old convicted murderer Tommy Lee Ross Jr. was arrested on Sunday, March 31, in Sacramento, California, she immediately called the prosecutor's office in Sacramento with a warning.

    "I said 'This man is dangerous, that he's evil. He cannot wander free,'" Wooldridge said.

    Ross, who was arrested in connection with the strangulation murder of Wooldridge's mother 41 years ago--and was also charged with the strangulation murders of two other women months later--faced a Sacramento judge Wednesday for allegedly endangering and threatening to kill children with a weapon and destroying the cellphone they used to call 911 in a Rancho Cordova home. Court records indicate the threats are felonies, and Ross is jailed on $50,000 bail.

    In November 1977, Ross was 19 when he was arrested in Los Angeles for the slaying of Bethel Wooldridge--a single mother of four, who was strangled and dragged into a bathtub.

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    Feryne Wooldridge, who was 15 at the time, found her mother's body after she came home from school.

    After Ross was arrested, questioned and completed a polygraph test, one of the investigators concluded: "Unequivocally, leaving no doubt, that Ross committed the crime of murder against the person of Bethel Wooldridge."

    "I seriously thought they were going to arrest him and try him and that she was not going to be killed in vain," said Feyrne.

    But Ross never stood trial for that killing.

    He was charged in Washington State with strangling Janet Bowcutt four months later in 1978 in her Port Angeles apartment, while her baby son was crying on a bed nearby.

    Months later, Ross was arrested--and eventually convicted--for strangling 26-year-old single mom and model Janice Alli Forbes in her apartment in Victoria, British Columbia, on Mothers' Day 1978.

    Prosecutors indicated that Bowcutt and Forbes were found hogtied from their feet to their neck with materials found in their apartments, and they were both strangled in the same way.

    But before Clallam or Los Angeles counties could put Ross on trial, he was sentenced to 38 years in a Canadian prison for the Victoria murder.

    Last October, a Clallam County judge set Ross free, saying his constitutional right to a speedy trial in Clallam County was violated while he was in prison in Canada. Clallam County prosecutors say they are waiting for a judge to rule on their appeal to reinstate the murder charges, so they can try him for Bowcutt's slaying.

    "He thinks he's going to be a free man and he's never going to see a day in jail for what he did to my mother? It kills me," Feryne said. "This man is a monster. He kills women and he leaves children behind."

    Feryne says she has spoken to Los Angeles prosecutors about potential charges in her mother's death.

    "I cannot imagine another group of children going through what this group of children have already been through," she said, adding, "If he is freed again, there are other people out there that need to be afraid!"

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