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Colin Ferguson: Prisoner No. 95A1838

March 24, 1995 GMT

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ Reality seemed to sink in Thursday for Colin Ferguson.

``How long am I going to be here?″ Ferguson asked an officer as he arrived at Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill.

``For the rest of your natural life, Ferguson,″ the officer said he told him sarcastically.

The officer spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

In fact, Fishkill was only the first stop for Ferguson. Thursday afternoon, he arrived at the Great Meadow Maximum Security Prison in Comstock, where he will serve his life term, said Jim Flateau, spokesman for the state Department of Correctional Services.

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At Great Meadow, Ferguson is separated from the general prison population in a special unit of 30 one-inmate cells. Each cell is 6 feet by 8 feet, painted creamy yellow, Flateau said.

Ferguson’s cell has no window, one light fixture, a toilet, a sink and a bed welded to the wall.

He has been assigned prisoner number 95A1838.

Ferguson was sentenced Wednesday to a minimum of 200 years for killing six people and wounding 19 others in the Dec. 7, 1993, Long Island Rail Road shooting spree. The judge lamented that he was unable to give Ferguson the death penalty.

Upon hearing the sentence, a courtroom full of train survivors applauded. As Ferguson was led away by guards, he insisted he had more to say to the judge.

But Thursday, Ferguson had little to say during his 92-mile journey to Fishkill, in Dutchess County.

``He didn’t say two words the entire trip,″ said Jerry Donahue, the deputy undersheriff in Nassau County who accompanied Ferguson.

``He was very nervous. He knew it was the last time he was going to see the light of day,″ he said.

Six officers took Ferguson from the Nassau County jail in a three-car caravan that pulled away at 6:30 a.m.

The killer sat handcuffed and shackled in the rear of an unmarked sedan and peered out the window until he was recognized by motorists slowed in traffic along the Long Island Expressway.

``One threw him the finger, and another guy acted like he was choking himself,″ according to Donahue. A third pretended he had a gun and made a shooting motion with his fingers.

Ferguson looked away.

The Jamaican immigrant, who acted as his own attorney, has maintained his innocence. He said that while he slept on the LIRR commuter train, a white man stole his gun and committed the crimes.

Ferguson was placed in protective custody at his own request. A hearing will be held within 14 days to determine whether such placement is appropriate, Flateau said.

An informal notice of appeal already was filed with the court, said Dennis Lemke, one of Ferguson’s legal advisers. The notice only preserves Ferguson’s right to appeal, Lemke said.

``I have a lighter heart today, knowing that Ferguson is no longer around,″ said Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband, Dennis, 52, was killed and son, Kevin, 27, was partially paralyzed by the gunman.