By: Jeremy Kohler
(reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 11, 2004)
One year ago this morning, a father called 911 from a pay phone with a frightening account: A carjacker had driven away with his SUV and his diaper-clad, profoundly disabled 9-year-old son. The SUV turned up two hours later; there was no sign of the boy. St. Louisans, reeling from a relentless series of highly publicized child abductions, felt another shiver. City police were skeptical of the carjacking report but said the danger to the boy was no less real. Searchers fanned out in a race to find Christian Taylor Ferguson. Without medicine for a metabolic defect, they were told, he would soon be dead. Days later, he was presumed so. But hope remained that authorities would at least find his remains and learn his fate. Another June 11 has arrived and Christian remains missing; his disappearance remains unsolved. But from the very start, investigators have — in their actions, if not in their words — put the microscope on his father, Dawan Ferguson, 31, who had been embroiled with his ex-wife, Christian’s mother, in a custody battle over their two sons. Ferguson has not been charged with a crime; he declined through his lawyer, John Rogers of Clayton, to comment for this story.
“The (Dawan) Ferguson family continues to be both saddened and frustrated with the lack of progress concerning the investigation into Christian’s abduction,” Rogers said Thursday. “I believe (the police) focus on Dawan is and has always been misplaced. Clearly the amount of time that has passed supports my contention that there is no credible connection between Dawan (and) Christian’s abduction.”
Christian’s mother, Theda Thomas, and other relatives also declined to be interviewed.
The scrutiny on Dawan Ferguson started with his 911 call at 6:09 a.m. from a parking lot at Page and Skinker boulevards.
A resident of a cul-de-sac in Ferguson — about five miles from Page and Skinker — later told police she had seen the SUV there about the same time as that 911 call. Only one of those statements could have been true; police were skeptical of Dawan Ferguson’s account.
“If we had found it truthful, then the investigation would have been concluded,” said St. Louis police Maj. Harry Hegger, who led the investigation for several months as commander of the department’s Crimes Against Persons Division. (He now commands the department’s Central Patrol station.)
“Well, let’s put it this way,” Hegger said. “Let me rephrase this: There’s inconsistencies that were learned early in the investigation that open a door for looking at all aspects. You’re looking at everything — what his story was, what we learned from the community, what we learned from everybody associated with the family, eyewitnesses — everything.”
The mystery deepened when St. Louis police took note of something on a TV news tape made shortly after the 911 report. A car parked on a lot at the scene, at Page and Skinker, belonged to a close friend of Dawan Ferguson’s. It was a friend who lived only about four blocks from that cul-de-sac where Ferguson’s vehicle was recovered.
Detectives have twice searched for evidence in Ferguson’s rented home in Pine Lawn.
The first time, they examined the house the day Christian was reported missing. That same day, Dawan Ferguson cut short a police interview and said he would no longer cooperate with authorities, a stance that has not changed.
Ferguson, a bounty hunter, later arranged for private detectives to scour the home and remove anything that appeared to have value as evidence, court records and Rogers confirmed.
Police believe that Ferguson and his current wife, Monica, moved from the house on Sylvan Place the week that Christian disappeared. Ferguson later told his landlady to bar police from returning to search it again, court records show. But she gave officers permission anyway.
With the help of a locksmith, St. Louis police detectives and FBI agents began their search the night of Aug. 12 and found indications that someone might be living there after all. They returned the next day with a search warrant and seized 35 items, including four shovels, a pick, a posthole digger, a pitchfork and boxes containing medical supplies, bedding and stained clothes.
Details of the custody battle between Dawan and Theda Ferguson are in a sealed court file, but what is known is that the court awarded custody of their other son, Connor, now 9, to Dawan Ferguson’s parents.
Despite the passage of a year, police continue to investigate Christian’s disappearance.
“We didn’t walk away from it,” Hegger said. “It’s still being actively worked. I imagine in the near future there will be some solution to it, some conclusion to it.”
A balloon launching and memorial service for Christian will be 6:30 tonight at St. Simon of Cyrene Catholic Church, 5050 Thekla Avenue, St. Louis. ==================== WHERE IS CHRISTIAN FERGUSON? Disappeared: June 11, 2003. When his father told police that his SUV — with Christian inside — was stolen off a lot at Page and Skinker boulevards after he got out to use a pay phone. The vehicle was recovered in Ferguson about two hours later with no sign of the boy, who is seriously disabled. Age at time of disappearance: 9. Where to call with information: St. Louis police at 314-444-5327 or 444-5504 (after hours.)