Day two of testimony in the trial of the St. Louis man accused of killing his disabled son saw a parade of witnesses poke hole after hole in the “cover story” Dawan Ferguson told police in the wake of what he said was his son’s disappearance.
For almost two decades, Ferguson has maintained that on the morning of June 11, 2003, he was rushing his nine-year-old son Christian to the hospital when he stopped at Page and Skinker to use a payphone to alert the hospital they would be arriving soon.
Christian suffered from Citrullinemia, a genetic disease that inhibits one’s ability to digest protein, rendering him severely disabled. He had been up all night vomiting, Ferguson said.
Ferguson claimed that as he made the call to the hospital someone stole the red SUV that his son was laying in the back of. Ferguson immediately called the police from the same payphone to say his car had been stolen and his son kidnapped.
The SUV was recovered later that day, but Christian wasn’t inside.
alleged abuse and neglect at the Ferguson household. Today the prosecution zeroed in on the events of June 11, 2003, putting police officers, friends of Ferguson and a journalist on the stand. All of them contributed to a narrative that stood in stark contrast to Ferguson’s version of events.
Frederic Wolf was one of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers who responded to Page and Skinker when he got the call a child had been abducted there.
Wolf testified that at first he thought Ferguson was a “regular victim,” though he soon began to feel that something was not right with his story.
When police recovered Ferguson’s SUV, but could not find Christian. Wolf testified that he found this odd.
Car thieves “want a ride, not a kidnapping charge,” he said.
The SUV was located in a small neighborhood of less than ten houses on Ronbar Lane on the western edge of the city of Ferguson.
Andrea Murphy-Johnson lived on Ronbar Lane at the time. She testified she was awake at 5 a.m. when she heard a noise and looked out her bedroom window to see the SUV parked by her house. She identified the SUV as the same one Ferguson would claim he watched get stolen about an hour later with his son inside.
Another resident of Ronbar, Mark Ellis, testified that he also saw the SUV on his street in the early dawn hours.
The prosecution is alleging that Ferguson ditched the SUV there and then used Lakisha Mayes' Chevrolet Malibu to drive to Skinker and Page where he made what the state says was the phony 911 call.
Mayes, who in 2003 was a friend of Ferguson’s, testified that Ferguson had a set of keys to her car and that he came to her later in the day on June 11 to say he borrowed the car without asking because his own car had been stolen.
Mayes testified that she asked how Ferguson got to her car if his SUV had been stolen. Ferguson's reply, according to Mayes, was ominous: “He said he didn’t want to involve anyone else.”
Mayes added, “He told me that I didn’t have to talk to [police].”
Additionally, prosecutors have been able to put the Chevrolet Malibu at Skinker and Page around the same time Ferguson called 911.
Joe Lami, who was the news director at Fox 2 in 2003, said on the stand that on the morning in question his network covered the alleged abduction. At 7:48 a.m., a journalist reported live on camera from the intersection. The Malibu can be seen in the background of the shot.
Ferguson’s defense counsel often asked clarifying questions of the witnesses, but it was often unclear what, if any, contradictions to the state’s version of events they were trying to draw out.
Ferguson has looked calm and cool throughout most of the trial. But after the courtroom listened to the audio of his 911 call, he showed his first hints at frustration: furrowing his brow and for a moment, bowing his head slightly with a hand to his forehead.
As in day one of the trial, defense and prosecution lodged a plenitude of objections at each other, resulting in frequent consultations with Judge Brian May at his bench.
At one point, some of the furniture at the front of the courtroom needed to be rearranged to accommodate a witness who used a motorized scooter. The judge joked that moving a chair in front of his bench would “guarantee we don’t have any sidebars” like the ones that punctuated the first day’s proceedings. Within about 10 minutes though, counsels navigated around the pushed aside chair to approach the bench.