By Ray Downs
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By RFT Staff
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Thomas says she brought the 33-page report to Riverfront Times because she's frustrated at the justice system's failures. "To me this report says they have everything," Thomas explains. "They just don't know where his body is."
In their report detectives Howell and Dyson assert that Dawan Ferguson committed two misdemeanors: making a false police report and a false missing-person report. They allege that Dawan and Monica Ferguson likely committed two felonies: endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree, and abandonment of a corpse.
Finally, the detectives write that Dawan Ferguson committed murder in the first degree, knowingly causing the death of his son "in a wantonly vile, horrible and depraved manner."
Although a grand jury has never heard investigators' account of what happened to Christian Ferguson, the boy has not been forgotten by the local African American community, nor by many of the 100-plus members of law enforcement who combed the metro area in vain.
"Sometimes I think that maybe the city [prosecutor] just ought to ask for the case back," muses one St. Louis police officer, expressing frustration at the fact that the department poured resources into investigating an incident that its officers believe occurred in the county and only fell to the city because the 911 call originated from a few feet inside its border.
But another law-enforcement official familiar with the investigation, who declined to speak on the record because the case is still open, cautions that a prosecution would be risky under the current circumstances.
"Normally in homicide investigations, you have a body and you work backwards from that. Here we've got a story that doesn't really make sense. And yeah, the dad was supposedly tired of the kid being a burden on the family. But he's never confessed. We poked holes in the guy's timeline, but poking holes doesn't make for a murder charge."
Adds the official: "Say you're a prosecutor and you put that guy on trial for murder and he gets acquitted. You can't try him again. But say the body turns up later. What do you do then? You can't go back, because it's double jeopardy. You've already tried him for homicide, and you lost."
Neither assistant St. Louis County prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh, who is handling the case for Robert McCulloch's office, nor McCulloch himself, returned numerous calls seeking comment for this story.
While investigating Christian's disappearance, FBI agent Liza Ludovico discovered that Dawan and Monica Ferguson committed fraud by falsifying a Social Security number and a signature on a loan application when they obtained their Ford Expedition. In September 2004, the U.S. Attorney's Office indicted the Fergusons on federal charges of bank fraud. Dawan pled guilty; Monica entered a pretrial diversion program and was spared jail time.
In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry prior to Ferguson's sentencing, Dawana Steffen asked for leniency and spoke of her son's good nature. "Dawan stopped all his personal pursuits to provide and care for his family," Steffen wrote. "After Christian experienced a deep coma and lost his mental capacity, I encouraged Dawan to consider a nursing care facility. Dawan refused to consider this because he had worked in these places and stated that there is a lot of abuse....
"Dawan has always gotten along well with others," the letter continued. "My husband and I often joked with Dawan about his personable ways. He was in Belleville court for a traffic ticket and sat next to what appeared to be some very prejudiced people but before the day was over they were asking him to have dinner with them. The joke was that Dawan was so personable, he could sit with the Klan and they would forget he was Black and invite him to one of their events."
In March 2005 Perry sentenced Ferguson to eight months in a federal penitentiary. He was released on December 30 of that year.
Scoffs Theda Thomas: "Dawan was untouchable because of his stepfather's political connections."
In April 2008 John Steffen closed Pyramid Construction and began liquidating its portfolio. Various creditors are suing the company, Steffen and his wife. A bank took over the couple's Kingsbury Place mansion last year, and they were forced to move out.
Neither John nor Dawana Steffen could be reached to comment for this story. Attorney Connie Hood, who represented them in family court, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Not long after Connor Ferguson was returned to Theda Thomas in 2007, she and Victor Thomas separated. Victor says he regrets that he and Theda never sought counseling after Christian's disappearance.
Connor Ferguson says he has his ups and downs. He has changed schools several times in the past two years. He says visits with his father made him angry, so he quit them altogether. "Here there's not as much money, but there's a lot of love," he says of his current living arrangement.
Connor looks forward to a weekly drama program and the time he gets to spend on a book he's trying to write about his and Christian's lives. "I want to be a lawyer," the eighth-grader says. "If Christian still isn't found, I want to do it myself."