Retired detective wants Sarasota millionaire’s death investigation reopened

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SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Retired Sarasota County Sheriff’s Detective Garry Ferguson does not worry about being blunt when discussing the death of millionaire Murray Cohen.

“There is enough probable cause to reopen that case,” Ferguson said.

Cohen was 71 and worth $1.3 million when he died in January 2003 in the modest Siesta Key home, he shared with his bride of three weeks.

Almost right away, Cohen’s son Steve Esdale was suspicious of the death, ruled by Medical Examiner William Anderson to be tied to a heart condition.

Esdale’s rants and assertions, mainly the discovery of the banned poison Corazol at the house, would later provoke Anderson to change his mind and recommend an autopsy.

Ferguson, now a volunteer Marion County cold case investigator, is terse when reminded that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) stated “even if Corazol were present in the body, the evidence would still be insufficient to file criminal charges.”

“I don’t know how anyone could come to a conclusion so ignorant,” Ferguson said. “If the FDLE doesn’t like it, too bad. I don’t care.”

According to Esdale’s denied motion to exhume his father’s body for an autopsy, the FDLE stated finding Corazol in Cohen’s system would be “insufficient” because he could have ingested it “under benign circumstances.”

Ferguson was freshly retired from the sheriff’s office that investigated the case when he volunteered to take a closer look about a year after the death.

His first focus was the 911 call.

Esdale has accused the sheriff’s office of destroying the first-generation hard drive, leaving only a fourth-generation copy of the five minute recording.

A number of exchanges sparked Ferguson’s suspicions.

“Make sure he’s breathing right,” the operator said while trying to guide the caller through CPR.

“He’s not breathing,” she said.

MORE DETAILS – LISTEN TO 911 CALL

Ferguson mapped the house to show where the only phone was.

“Around the corner and to that wall,” Ferguson said, referring to the map.

Not close enough Ferguson claims for the caller to see Cohen or follow the operator’s CPR instructions.

“The phone is around the corner two rooms away hanging on a wall 24 feet away,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also asserts investigators missed that Cohen’s ex-girlfriend was also in the house around the time of the 911 call.

“She was never interviewed,” Ferguson said.

And she has since died.

Neither Cohen’s widow nor his former girlfriend have ever been charged with a crime in connection with this case.

But Ferguson said he believes there was a coverup.

“Not to cover the murder up,” Ferguson said. “To cover their own incompetency from the beginning.”

The sheriff’s office disagrees with spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez disagrees.

“This investigation was handled professionally and with great attention to every detail,” Perez said.

Ferguson insists otherwise.

“There is enough probable cause to reopen that case, put new fresh eyes on it,” Ferguson said. “Start from day one and go forward. If they do not find enough evidence to move forward, then we move on.”

Cohen’s widow has not responded to requests for comment.

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