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Crime News Snapped

'I Really Wish He Was Dead': Was The Wife Behind A Western Film Star's Murder?

Jimmie Ferrara had successful career on the silver screen, which ended when he was shot to death at his home.

By Benjamin H. Smith

On the big screen, actor Jimmie Ferrara played the outlaw Billy Clanton, who dueled with lawmen Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday during the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In real life, he would meet the same fate as Clanton, dying at the wrong end of a gun barrel. 

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James Joseph Ferrara was born in 1920. His parents were hard-working immigrants from Sicily who settled in New York in 1910. Soon after his birth, the Ferrara family relocated to Sacramento, California. After a brief stint in the Coast Guard, Ferrara tried his hand at acting.

In 1942, Ferrara was cast as Clanton in the movie “Tombstone, The Town Too Tough To Die.” For the next two decades he would appear in numerous Westerns including the television series “Gunsmoke.” 

With his movie star good looks and charm to spare, Ferrara was a ladies man who was rumored to have dated starlet Rita Hayworth and was married several times over the years. 

After his acting career cooled off in the 1960s, Ferrara invested in real estate and split his time between Los Angeles and Yuma, Arizona. While visiting Reno, Nevada, in 1977, Ferrara met Delma Lee Collier. He was 57 and she was 25, but they hit it off despite their age difference. 

Delma grew up in Hawthorne, Nevada, a small town of just over 3,000. She married in her early 20s and helped raise her husband’s three sons from a previous marriage. 

“There was more bad times than happy times with her and my father,” Delma’s stepson Dean Stuparich told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “My father was verbally abusive and physically abusive. She told me that she was leaving, she couldn’t take it anymore, and that she loved me and she was sorry she had to leave.” 

Unlike the other men in her life, Ferrara was good-looking, financially well-off, and had a Hollywood pedigree. She followed him back to Yuma and they would marry in 1981. 

Their marriage eventually went south, though. They fought frequently and separated in 1984, but reconciled just one year later. To celebrate, they went on a two-month road trip in an RV. They got back to Yuma on September 28.  

But just after midnight on Sept. 30, 1985, a man called in to the Yuma Police Department. He said he had just found his friend Jimmie Ferrara dead in his home.  

Officers arrived to find the back door ajar and 65-year-old Ferrara on the floor in between the kitchen and living room. A puddle of blood surrounded his head and chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

“We could tell that he had been shot multiple times. It appears that somebody just came up and just  — boom, boom, boom — right into the head,” Yuma Police Sergeant Lori Franklin told “Snapped.” 

The home showed no signs of forced entry or robbery. Four .22 caliber casings were found on the floor. No other evidence was found at the scene.  

The man who found his body said he had been with Ferrara earlier that day. Around 11 that night, Delma called and asked him to check on Ferrara as she couldn’t get ahold of him. 

Delma was a couple miles away at the home of Ferrara’s niece, Pamela Denman. When police told her about Ferrara’s murder, she became hysterical. Delma claimed earlier in the day a woman named Sally Cook visited her husband. 

“She was a younger lady, younger than Delma, somebody that Jimmie’s kind of taken under his wing to acting classes and just to help out in general. Sally’s also thought to have had an affair with Jimmie,” Franklin told producers.

According to Delma, Ferrara had multiple girlfriends over the course of their relationship. She said she had gotten used to it but admitted that after Cook left, she and Ferrara got into a fight. 

Delma claimed she went for a walk after the fight to clear her head. Later that evening, she saw Sally’s car at her home and got angry and went to her niece’s house. 

“We did ask Delma if she killed her husband. She said no. She was also asked did she know who might want to kill her husband. Again, she said she didn’t know,” Franklin told producers.

Delma took a polygraph test but the findings were inconclusive. Investigators tested the clothes she was wearing for blood and gunshot residue but they came back clean. 

Cook was interviewed and denied having an affair with Ferrara. She said on the night of Ferrara's murder he had driven her to her boyfriend’s home where the three of them had dinner. Both Cook and her boyfriend took polygraph tests, which they passed.  

With all potential suspects cleared and no evidence pointing to any other scenarios, the murder of Jimmie Ferrara would remain unsolved for over 20 years. 

But in January 2006, a man called the Yuma Police Department and said his nephew had admitted to being responsible for Jimmie Ferrara’s death. His name was Rick Kosterow and he was a Marine stationed in Yuma at the time of the murder.  

“He explains that his nephew and Donald White, soon after the homicide, came up to his place in California. They were drinking around a bonfire and Rick just started talking about everything that happened. How they killed this guy, that he was a Western movie star ... ” Franklin told producers.

White was a fellow Marine who shot Ferrara at Kosterow’s behest. The man kept his nephew’s secret for two decades but decided to tell police after they had a falling out. 

After leaving the Marine Corps White had become a commercial pilot and was in the Army Reserves while Kosterow lived in Washington and worked for his family’s bagel business.

In May 2006, detectives flew to Oklahoma to interview White. Now 41, he was about to deploy to Iraq. White explained that in 1985 he was introduced to Delma, who Kosterow was having an affair with. She offered him and Kosterow $25,000 each to murder her husband. 

“I was approached by Rick to do this and he explained the situation was that this girl — I didn’t know her, I only met her one time — was being horribly abused by this guy and it would be doing pretty much a favor to everybody to take this guy out of circulation,” White is heard telling detectives in audio of his interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.” 

On the night of the murder, White and Kosterow snuck into Ferrara’s home while he was out. When Ferrara returned home and saw the intruders he confronted them, which ended with White shooting him.

Delma never came through with the money and White said he never saw her again. 

Investigators next traveled to Washington to interview Kosterow, now 47. He admitted having an affair with Delma but gave vague answers about the murder of Jimmie Ferrara until confronted with White’s confession.

“I was there when he did it,” Kosterow is seen telling detectives in his videotaped interview, obtained by “Snapped.” “I was behind Don.” 

Donald White and Rick Kosterow were both arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper.

After the death of Jimmie Ferrara, Delma had remarried and relocated to Fallon Nevada. Now 53 and known as Delma Troy, she was arrested on May 31, 2006, and charged with murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit murder, reported local newspaper the Nevada Appeal.

When questioned by detectives, Delma claimed Ferrara physically abused her, an allegation police found no evidence to support. She said on the day of the murder, Ferrara beat her badly. Afterward, she called Kosterow who picked her up. 

“I said, ‘I just wished he was dead. I really wish he was dead,’ and he said, ‘That can be arranged,'” she is seen telling detectives in her videotaped interview, obtained by “Snapped.”

Delma insisted her involvement in Ferrara's murder ended there, and that Kosterow and White acted on their own. She also claimed she inherited little money after Ferrara’s death. However, financial records showed Ferrara had substantial financial holdings. 

In 2007, Delma Troy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder while Donald White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, according to the Associated Press. They would both receive 12 and a half year prison sentences.  

Rick Kosterow decided to take his chances with a jury trial. In December 2007, he was found guilty of first-degree murder, according to The Oregonian newspaper, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Delma Troy died in prison at the age of 62 on February 23, 2015. Almost two years later to the day, on February 24, 2017, Rick Kosterow died in prison at the age of 57. 

Don White was released from prison in November 2018.

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