Theda Person has prayed for a miracle for many years concerning her missing son Christian Ferguson. Just before what would have been his 26th birthday, a miracle arrived from St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, but it was not the miracle she had prayed for.
On Friday, October 4, Bell announced that Dawan Ferguson, the boy’s father, had been charged with first degree murder in the death of the boy who has been missing since June 2003, when he was 10. According to the criminal complaint, the father allegedly killed the boy “by failing to provide necessary nutrition and medication.”
At the time of his disappearance, Christian suffered from a metabolic disorder called citrullinemia and received nourishment through a gastrointestinal tube.
The probable cause statement provided by Ron Goldstein, chief investigator for Bell’s office, is scant. It simply states that the father left home with the boy, who was critically ill and needed medication to survive, on June 11, 2003, and the boy “was never seen again.”
However, many details of the event have been reported for more than a decade, by The St. Louis American and other local media. The St. Louis American has long reported that Person did not believe the kidnapping story that Dawan Ferguson gave to police in 2003 to explain the boy’s disappearance.
The father claimed that his SUV was stolen, with the boy in it, near Page and Skinker in the City of St. Louis while the father was out of the vehicle using a payphone. However, Dawan Ferguson had a cellphone with him at the time. And the SUV was later located in Ferguson, where a witness said it had been parked for several hours – even at the time Dawan Ferguson was allegedly using a pay phone in the city.
The boy’s father at first was considered a person of interest, but was later dropped as a potential suspect. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department completed an investigation. Then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce declared a conflict on the case because Dawan Ferguson used to work for her office as a process server.
“I have always been deeply troubled by this case,” Joyce told The American. “I hope that Christian and his family get the justice they deserve.”
When Joyce gave the case to then-St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, he filed no charges.
The election of Bell over McCulloch was essential to the case being reopened and charges being filed. “He brought a fresh set of eyes,” she said of Bell.
The grieving mother never took her eyes off of the case. She formed Looking For An Angel, a nonprofit organization with the goal of increasing awareness of missing persons and raising monetary rewards. Each year, she led the Christian T. Ferguson Memorial Parade and Family Affair to keep missing children in memory and to provide free identification cards to children whose families attended.
She regularly noted that the boy’s father did not attend these events.
Though she continued to pray for the miracle of her son’s return, she knew that his medical condition made it nearly impossible for him to have survived even a few days, let alone many years.
“I do believe in miracles, but at the same time I’m pretty confident that it won’t turn out that way, because my son has a rare genetic disorder and depends on medication,” she told The American in 2007.
As she prayed, she also worked to get to the bottom of what happened to her son and to find his body – to no avail until now.
Christian’s 26th birthday would have been on Tuesday, October 9, more than 16 years after his disappearance. Through tears, she thanked Bell and his staff for their work, and the media and community for their attention. “They have not forgotten about my baby,” she said.
What evidence of guilt Bell has found, beyond the spare probable cause statement, will emerge at trial, if the case goes to trial. Dawan Ferguson is being represented by Jemia Steele, a public defender, who has filed a request for discovery. She did not return a call from The American. The accused’s next scheduled appearance is a bond reduction hearing on October 16. He is being held without bond. His trial is scheduled to start on December 2.
Person begged anyone with knowledge of these now-distant events to come forward now that criminal justice is engaged.
“Please, if you have any information, say it now,” she begged the community. “Even small things may be significant. Don’t allow my family to endure this injustice.”
Asked if she had anything else to tell the community, she said, “Ask the community to continue to pray for me.”
The St. Louis County prosecutor may be reached with tips at 314-615-2600.