Police say they are still seeking a motive in the killing of a homeless man who was found stabbed to death in a wooded area off of the Thruway Exit 19 traffic circle on Sunday. The body of Guy D. Andradez, 58, was discovered around 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11 beneath a tarp near a tent where, witnesses say, he had been living since June. Lance J. Ferguson, 36, of Kingston has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts in Andradez’s death.
Tom Brenner, another resident of the small community of homeless people who live in what’s called “Tent Village” on the banks of the Esopus Creek near the traffic circle, said in an interview with the Kingston Times that he discovered Andradez’s body on Sunday night. Brenner, 60, said he was walking with his dog towards his own campsite when he noticed a blue tarp on the ground behind Andradez’s tent. Brenner said when he lifted the tarp, he discovered a bloated and decomposing human form laying face down.
“About the only thing you could recognize as human was the dungarees,” said Brenner. “I thought this was either a corpse or a bad joke.”
Brenner’s discovery triggered a massive response by Town of Ulster Police and other local law enforcement agencies. Ulster County Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Kavanagh said police responded to Brenner’s call for help shortly after 8p.m. as darkness was falling, but had to wait until daybreak to begin the laborious task of processing the crime scene.
By Monday morning, an Ulster County Sheriff’s Office mobile command post was set up on a bike and pedestrian path near the crime scene, while dozens of officers and investigators combed the woods, weeds and marshland around the crime scene. Later in the day, members of the sheriff’s dive team arrived on the scene to search a section of the creek for evidence.
“It was a very labor-intensive process,” said Kavanagh, who added that police spent about eight hours canvassing the area. “We had to do a grid search for evidence and because of the vegetation and woods it was very time-consuming.”
The investigation led police to Ferguson. He was arrested on Monday, Aug. 12 at a residence in Kingston. Ferguson was arraigned in Town of Ulster Court on charges of second-degree murder, concealment of a human corpse, evidence tampering, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of weapons possession. He is currently in the Ulster County Jail without bail awaiting a Sept. 10 hearing.
Kavanagh said a judge had ordered Ferguson to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial. Kavanagh added that Ferguson had made statements to police about the crime after his arrest. Kavanagh further added that while an official cause of death has not yet been issued, Andradez’s body bore multiple stab wounds. Police believe the murder occurred sometime Friday night or early on Saturday.
Life — and death — down by the creek
Brenner said that he had called his campsite on the banks of the creek home for four or five years. The wooded area, he said, is a gathering point and refuge for a small group of homeless people and others who come by to fish, hang out and, sometimes, to stay. Most, Brenner said, get by on disability checks, odd jobs, recycling aluminum cans and donations from the People’s Place food pantry. Some of his neighbors, he said, struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. One was the subject of a police investigation last year when he was found dead in the creek in what cops would later rule an accidental drowning.
“It’s usually pretty peaceful down here,” said Brenner. “I have friends who come out to visit and do some fishing.”
Brenner said that Andradez showed up in tent village back in June along with his longtime girlfriend and another couple, a group Brenner dubbed “The poor hippies.” That group broke in mid-July when Andradez got into a fight with the male half of the other couple. The incident led to Andradez’s arrest on a charge of felony assault. Cops say that Andradez beat his opponent with a frying pan. (Brenner said Andradez told him he’d acted in self defense). Andradez was initially jailed without bail but was released later. Kavanagh said that he did not know the status of the assault case.
After the fight, Brenner said, Andradez and his girlfriend remained at their camp site, while other couple moved on.
Brenner said that he was introduced to Ferguson by Andradez in late July or early August when the younger man began hanging around the encampment. Brenner said Ferguson spent his days at the QuickChek across Washington Avenue powering his phone from an outdoor socket and panhandling.
Initially, Brenner said, Ferguson appeared to be on good terms with Andradez and his girlfriend. In early August, when their disability checks came through, the three went in together on a room at a local motel. But, Brenner said, Andradez appeared to have wearied of Ferguson’s presence at the encampment. On Friday — the last day he was seen alive — Andradez told Brenner that he did not want Ferguson hanging around his campsite.
“Guy had his issues, but he didn’t want to be partying in the middle of the night with some 30-year-old kid who’s out panhandling and trying to go from girl to girl,” Brenner said. “He was well past that point his life.”
Andradez is the second homeless man slain in Kingston in recent years. On Nov. 29, 2017, Anthony Garro Jr. was beaten to death in an abandoned railroad cut beneath the Elmendorf Street Bridge. Seth P. Lyons, 20, killed Garro in a dispute over a missing cell phone. Lyons was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.