The family of nine-year-old Christian Ferguson, who went missing in 2003, feels they are finally getting their chance at justice after a nearly two-decade-long trial.
Starting today, a jury must decide whether Don Ferguson is guilty of child abuse and murder of his nine-year-old son, Christian, in 2003. This morning, the prosecution and defense gave their opening statements.
About 20 years ago, a seriously handicapped boy disappeared from the back seat of a stolen SUV. Previously known as the “disappearance of Christian Ferguson”, the case received nationwide coverage but remained a mystery. In recent years, however, Christian’s father, 49-year-old Dawn Ferguson, has come under suspicion.
Christian was born in 1993 with Citrullinmeia, a rare inherited disorder that made him unable to digest proteins. He needed medicine and a strict diet. By 2003, his condition had worsened, and he could not walk or talk. He had to go back wearing a diaper and using a feeding tube.
The test centers on the events of June 11, 2003. Ferguson later told police that Christian had been vomiting all night. That morning, Ferguson said he was driving his son from his home on Pine Lawn to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. On the way, he said that he decided to call the hospital ahead.
He stopped at Page and Skinker on a phone call and called the hospital. But, on the payphone, he said that his SUV was stolen along with Christian’s. Around 6 a.m. that day, Ferguson called 911 from the same payphone on Page and Skinner, saying their car had been stolen.
A discovery took place. Ferguson’s SUV was in a residential area about five miles away, from where he called the police.
In the ensuing weeks and months, police conducted an extensive search for Christian. The non-profit Sean Hornbeck Foundation established a “command post” to coordinate community efforts, and soon the FBI joined the search.
But Christian was never found.
Investigators found that Ferguson had keys to a Chevrolet Malibu owned by family friend Lakisha Mays. That Malibu appeared in a video taken on Page and Skinner around the same time Ferguson made the original 911 call.
It was also revealed that Ferguson had a cell phone, begging for questions as to why he would stop on a phone call to call the hospital.
Nevertheless, the matter did not progress for nearly two decades.
Then, in 2019, Christian’s mother, Theda Persson, contacted St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell. After looking at the evidence, Bell decided to charge.
The new allegations coincide with allegations of sexual abuse against Ferguson. In 2019, he and his wife divorced, and in court filings, Monica Ferguson alleged that Ferguson sexually abused two relatives.
In his opening statement, prosecutor John Schlesinger told the jury that Christian was not always seriously incompetent. Despite being born with a rare inherited disorder, he was able to lead a more or less normal life – although it was a life that required extensive medical care, medication, and a strict diet.
To demonstrate this, Schlesinger showed a home video of Christian Joker to the camera, walking around wearing adult shoes too large for his feet.
But in January 2001, Schlesinger said, Ferguson had full custody of his son and was neglected.
On January 16, Christian began vomiting, but Ferguson did not take her to the hospital until the next day. Christian went into a coma.
When Christian came out of the coma, his condition had worsened, and he now suffered the debility that defined the last two years of his life. In 2003, in the weeks before Christian’s disappearance, the man was attempting to gain partial custody.
In his opening statement, Schlesinger alleged that Ferguson was heard saying that Christian’s mother would get custody of the child over his dead body.
Schlesinger also extensively previewed the witnesses who will be called in the coming week. He said the state would call several witnesses, including home health aides, who would testify that Ferguson was extremely negligent in caring for his disabled son. He also said that before Ferguson claimed that his SUV was stolen while taking his son to the hospital, he would call members of the Stand family who were at the Pine Lawn home.
Finally, Schlesinger said he would call the stand individuals who spoke to Ferguson after the incident. Schlesinger said these individuals would testify that Ferguson said, “the boy was dead before I reported my disappearance,” and that “I did what I had to do.”
Ferguson’s public defender Jemiah Steele narrated Ferguson’s version of events on the morning of June 11, 2003. She said that Ferguson used the payphone despite having a cell phone because his phone was dead within minutes.
Steele began his opening statement with the simple declaration “Don Ferguson did not kill his son.”
This story will be updated.