A New Milford man charged with trying to kill his wife while their two children watched agreed to a guilty plea under the Alford doctrine on three lesser charges July 6 in state Superior Court.
Neil Fergus, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree assault and one count of second-degree assault on an older person.
The plea agreement reached with Senior State's Attorney David Shepack calls for a 30-year prison sentence, suspended after 13 years, with five years of probation.
Under the Alford doctrine, a defendant indicates that he disputes some or all of the state's allegations, but believes there is enough evidence for a possible guilty verdict, Judge James Ginnochio said. If a judge accepts the Alford plea, a guilty finding is made on the record.
Mr. Fergus was facing 10 more serious charges, including attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree burglary/home invasion, third-degree assault on a person older than 60 and two counts of risk of injury to a minor.
In November 2009, Mr. Fergus, who had been separated from Catherine Fergus for 11 months, blocked her vehicle in her driveway with his car, then got out of his car and stabbed her three times in the back and one time in the arm while she sat in her car with their sons, ages 9 and 6, in the back seat, Mr. Shepack told the judge Friday.
The attack caused Catherine Fergus to suffer a collapsed lung and perforation of the chest cavity, the prosecutor said.
Catherine Fergus managed to run into the family home and lock the door, but Neil Fergus kicked the door in, brandishing the knife, and knocked his elderly mother-in-law, who was calling the police, to the floor, causing injury to her side, Mr. Shepack told the judge.
Mr. Fergus, in an oversized orange prison jumpsuit, appeared calm as he addressed the judge in court Friday.
He told Judge Ginnochio that he was on Prozac, but understood the court proceedings.
Mr. Fergus' sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14. He remained in custody on $1 million bond.
"I think it's a fair disposition, especially based on the initial charges leveled against him," said Mr. Fergus' attorney, Martin Minnella, of Waterbury. "Although a plea of temporary insanity is not allowed in Connecticut, we felt that at the time of these actions, Mr. Fergus was not operating with his full senses in place."
Mr. Minnella said the state's attorney and defense counsel worked hard to reach the plea agreement.
"Now he can get on with his life and his wife can find closure," Mr. Minnella said. "He comes from a wonderful family. This is something that unfortunately occurred."
Mr. Minnella said Mr. Fergus, who has been incarcerated since the incident, is being treated for depression.
"I feel he will come out of this a better person and hopefully there can be healing on the part of the family," Mr. Minnella said.
Neil and Catherine Fergus are now divorced.
Catherine Fergus has a civil lawsuit pending against the New Milford Police Department, alleging that officers improperly alerted her then-estranged husband to a harassment complaint she made against him, prompting him to come to her home, where he attacked her.
Attorney Joel Faxon, representing Catherine Fergus, had said in March that he couldn't "dig into the facts of this civil case until the criminal case is settled."