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Dead fugitive from central Indiana defrauded hundreds

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The son of an Indiana fugitive who apparently killed himself rather than surrendering to Oregon authorities last week said his father never once reached out after disappearing 12 years ago. The man, he said, has been dead to him for years.

Brian Ferguson told The Herald Bulletin of Anderson for a story published Friday that the FBI hadn't called him to confirm if the man killed was his father, but that he has already learned to deal with losing him.

"I had no idea where he was or if he was even alive," Ferguson said. "I had to create my own closure. He just vanished. No goodbye, nothing."

Oregon authorities say 62-year-old Phillip Ferguson died last week from a gunshot wound to the head soon after fleeing from two officers and an FBI agent who were tipped off about his presence. The confrontation happened in a remote area near Burns, Ore., where Ferguson was apparently farming alfalfa under the name Vernon Cox.

Ferguson vanished in 2000 while his Marion investment business was under a federal investigation. He was later charged with 90 counts of securities violations and accused of bilking more than 600 investors out of $30 million.

Phillip Ferguson's case had been featured on "America's Most Wanted."

Brad Skolnik, who was the Indiana securities commissioner back in 2000, said most of Ferguson's victims were elderly people who thought they were putting their money in safe investments. Many of his victims were from central Indiana, including Alexandria, where Ferguson grew up.

Brian Ferguson said he believed the same thing that caused his dad to run caused him to shoot himself — pride.

"He grew up in a small town," Ferguson said. "He did something he shouldn't have done, so he left. That's the only way I can fathom this happening. He left his family, his grandkids and didn't tell anyone. He just vanished. Who can stay away that long? What kind of a person could do that?"

Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said fingerprint comparisons confirmed the identification of Phillip Ferguson.

An autopsy found he died Wednesday from a single gunshot wound to the head from a small-caliber weapon. Hastings said initial evidence indicated it was unlikely that shots fired by the Harney County sheriff and a sergeant hit Ferguson as he fled in a pickup.

Hastings told The Oregonian on Friday that the Harney County district attorney asked him not to disclose if Ferguson shot himself.

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