Neglect at the Center of Alleged St. Louis Child Killer's Trial

Nurse says Dawan Ferguson deprived his severely disabled son of food and clothing

click to enlarge Beginning today, a jury will have to decide if Dawan Ferguson is guilty of child abuse and killing his nine-year-old son Christian in 2003. - Screenshot via KSDK
Screenshot via KSDK
Beginning today, a jury will have to decide if Dawan Ferguson is guilty of child abuse and killing his nine-year-old son Christian in 2003.

Two nurses who tended to Christian Ferguson in the year before he died painted a bleak picture of the nine-year-old's life with his father in Pine Lawn.

Christian's father, Dawan Ferguson, stands accused of killing Christian in June of 2003 and then telling police an elaborate cover story of Christian being in the backseat of an SUV when it was stolen.

Christian suffered from a severe form of Citrullinmeia, a rare genetic disorder that left him unable to digest protein. By 2003, he could no longer walk or use the bathroom and required extensive care.
The state is claiming that Ferguson was an extremely neglectful person who viewed his disabled son as an "inconvenience."

Ferguson's public defender, Jemia Steele, is arguing that Christian's mother, Theda Person, who was estranged from Ferguson in 2003, has been working to sway witnesses to testify against him.

Much of the testimony on day one of the trial came from two home health-care workers who cared for Christian in 2002.

At-home nurse Trdell Overbey testified that Christian “never had clean clothing. I would let him wear my son’s clothing. I didn’t mind. I wouldn’t let him go out like that.”

Overbey says she bought food for Christian to eat. Often there were no sheets on the bed in Christian’s bedroom, which typically smelled overwhelmingly of urine.

Overbey went on to testify that one weekend when she wasn’t at the home, Christian’s feeding apparatus fell out and was on the floor on Monday morning when she arrived at the house. She says she took Christian to the hospital herself. Ferguson did not want to go.

During cross examination, Steele asked Overbey why, even though she was a mandated reporter, she never alerted the state’s Department of Social Services about the alleged neglect going on in the Ferguson home. Overbey acknowledged she never reported anything to the state, but she did report concerns to the nursing agency she worked for.

Overbey also said she often felt intimidated by Ferguson, who worked as a bounty hunter.

Kimberly Nelson, another nurse who worked in Ferguson’s home around the same time, spoke much more favorably about him. She testified she was never afraid of him and that she saw loving interactions between father and son.

However, Nelson also testified that once when she went to refill one of Christian’s prescriptions, she couldn’t get it refilled because Christian hadn’t been brought in to see a doctor in over a year.

Nelson, not Ferguson, took Christian to subsequent doctor’s appointments.

The testimony of both Nelson and Overbey was punctuated by frequent objections from both defense and prosecution. Many of these resulted in both counsels approaching the bench to talk with the judge.

At one point, Judge Brian May encouraged the attorneys to move things along with fewer interruptions. During one consultation with both attorneys at the bench he could be heard saying the frequent delays were making them all look “foolish.”

May was speaking to both defense and prosecution when he said this, but in general May rejected many more of the defense counsel’s objections than the prosecution’s.

In the late afternoon, Christian’s maternal aunt Sharon Williams took the stand. In addition to being Person’s sister, Williams acted as a go-between for Ferguson and Person after they separated.

Williams testified that in 2003, when Person was trying to regain partial custody of Christian, Ferguson told her he didn’t want to go back to court in the ongoing custody dispute. She added that Ferguson was so “agitated” about the situation that he said Person would see Christian “over my dead body.”

A series of objections during the questioning of Williams led to yet another consultation between the attorneys and the judge. Instead of allowing proceedings to resume, May dismissed the jury for the day a little before 4 p.m.

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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