WARREN - Retired General Motors Co. employee Jim Graham instantly recalls the day in 1974 that shook the Lordstown plant to its core.
"The entire place was just in a state of shock," Graham, who also was the longtime United Auto Workers 1112 president, said Friday night.
On Dec. 14, 1974, fellow Lordstown plant worker Ben Marsh was gunned down in his Canfield home. Marsh's wife, Marilyn, and their 4-year-old daughter, Heather, were both found beaten to death with the butt of the gun.
The triple-murder stunned the entire community, but the ripples through the GM Lordstown plant were especially palpable.
The 32-year-old Marsh manned the plant's entrance gate, serving as one of the security guards at the time of his murder.
Graham, who worked at the Lordstown plant from 1968 until last year, said his encounters with Marsh were brief but warm.
"I wouldn't say we were close friends, but I knew him," Graham said. "When we did have conversations, he always seemed like a nice guy. He was just a family guy, and everybody was out there to do their jobs and to feed their families."
In the months and years following the murders, the scene of the crime - a home on South Turner Road - became a constant reminder of the murders, according to Graham.
"A lot of people were coming in from Youngstown at that time and they'd drive right by the house where it happened," Graham said. "It was just right down the street (from the GM plant). It was shocking that it could happen so close."
Those feelings of shock returned Thursday, when another of Graham's co-workers was charged in the brutal slayings.
After 39 years, a Mahoning County grand jury indicted James P. Ferrara, 64, formerly of Youngstown, on three counts of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated burglary and a count of aggravated robbery in connection with the 1974 killings.
Graham said he and Ferrara worked together for years as union representatives at the Lordstown plant.
"I am completely floored," Graham said. "I actually knew Ferrara a lot better than I knew Marsh."
Graham said Ferrara had an even-tempered and quiet demeanor.
"He generally kept to himself," Graham said. "Not too many people knew much about him. Jimmy didn't have a lot of close friends, it didn't seem. But, I never expected it when he got arrested the first time."
That "first" arrest for Ferrara came in 1983. He was convicted of killing two people in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus. According to reports, Ferrara and two accomplices - Joseph A. Weeks and Mark Jennings - went to a North Street condominium to steal a large amount of cocaine.
After the attempted robbery went bad, the men running the drug operation - Fred Lemmens and Ed Hanna - were executed, reports state. Witnesses at the time fingered Ferrara as the triggerman for both murders.
Graham, who is Warren City Council's president-elect, said when he heard of Ferrara's arrest in 1983, he couldn't believe it.
"He didn't seem like that type of person," Graham said. "He was a Vietnam veteran and a very quiet guy. When he got arrested in Columbus, it just didn't seem like something Jimmy would do."
Ferrara was serving a 20-year sentence in Marion Correctional Institution for those crimes when in 2009, detectives with the Mahoning County Sheriff's Office ran fingerprints left at the scene of the Marsh killings through the "AEFIS" fingerprint identification database.
"Once we got the hit back on the fingerprints, the ball just started rolling from there," Detective Pat Mondora said during a news conference on Thursday. "We started following leads and following the case to Worthington, which led us back up to Warren and then numerous leads after that."
If found guilty, Ferrara will not be eligible for the death penalty, but he is subject to a potential life imprisonment on each aggravated murder count.
"If he is convicted, he will die in prison," Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said.
According to Graham, even after Ferrara's first arrest, it was difficult to see this coming.
"You can always go back and look for little clues or say two and two equals four, but I never expected this," Graham said. "It just never crossed my mind that he would have been responsible for what happened in 1974."