St. Louis Father Found Guilty of Killing Disabled Son

The Dawan Ferguson verdict was 19 years in the making

click to enlarge This week, a jury will have to decide if Dawan Ferguson (center) is guilty of child abuse and killing his nine-year-old son Christian in 2003. - St. Louis County Circuit Attorney's Office Live Stream
St. Louis County Circuit Attorney's Office Live Stream
This week, a jury will have to decide if Dawan Ferguson (center) is guilty of child abuse and killing his nine-year-old son Christian in 2003.

After listening to five days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses, a jury deliberated for only a little more than two hours before declaring Dawan Ferguson, 49, guilty of murder for killing his nine-year-old disabled son in 2003.

All week the trial has been marked by interruptions and delays, and this morning’s proceedings got under way more than two hours behind schedule, with the jury not entering the courtroom until a few minutes before noon.

With the jury in place, the prosecution and defense each had one last chance to argue their version of what happened on the morning June 11, 2003.

Ferguson and his public defender have insisted that Ferguson's SUV was stolen from the intersection of Page and Skinker with his severely disabled son, Christian, in the back.

click to enlarge Christian Ferguson (left) and his younger sibling, who was known as Connor (right) at the time, with their father, Dawan Ferguson, in a photo from the mid-1990s. The children were born a year apart; Christian had citrullinemia but Connor did not. - Courtesy Theda Thomas
Courtesy Theda Thomas
Christian Ferguson (left) and his younger sibling, who was known as Connor (right) at the time, with their father, Dawan Ferguson, in a photo from the mid-1990s. The children were born a year apart; Christian had citrullinemia but Connor did not.
The prosecution has argued there was no stolen car, and Ferguson's story was an elaborate ruse to cover up for his having killed his son.

“For 19 years, that man right there, Dawan Ferguson, has gotten away,” prosecutor John Schlesinger told the jury in his closing statement. “It is time he be held responsible. It is time Christian Ferguson and his family finally receive justice.”

Schlesinger spent much of his closing statement reminding the jury that Christian's condition when he died was due to his father's neglect.  Christian was born with citrullinemia, which causes ammonia and other toxic substances to build up in the blood. Until he was seven, Christian enjoyed a relatively normal life. People with citrullinemia are often able to manage the disorder with medication and proper diet. In January 2001, though, Ferguson ignored signs his son was in medical duress, and Christian slipped into a life-altering coma. Afterwards, the boy wasn't able to walk, talk or eat without a feeding tube.

“No one wants to believe that a person can be responsible for something like this, much less a parent,” Schlesinger said. He added that this disbelief is partially how Ferguson “got away with murder” for this long.

Schlesinger went on to say that Ferguson’s motive for murdering his son lay in the fact that he had been neglecting and abusing his son for years but in May 2003 was about to lose custody of him to Christian’s mother.

“Time was up. He could no longer keep Christian away from everyone else,” Schlesinger said. “He didn’t want to have to show Christian to anyone because he knew he was going to get caught.”
click to enlarge Christian with his mom.
Christian with his mom.

Yesterday, Ferguson’s defense called what could have been a trial-altering witness in Dion Dupree who was near the intersection of Page and Skinker on June 11, 2003.

Dupree testified he indeed did see Ferguson’s car speeding away from that area. However, Ron Goldstein, a former chief criminal investigator for the county prosecutor's office, said that in 2003, when questioned, Dupree did not mention seeing an SUV.

“I don’t think we need to say another word about Dion Dupree,” Schlesinger said today in his closing statement. He called Dupree’s testimony “a joke.” He asked the jurors to consider Dupree’s credibility versus that of the neighbors on Ronbar Lane who said they saw Ferguson’s SUV on their street at dawn, hours before Ferguson claimed it was stolen.

“So many people have failed Christian Ferguson,” Schlesinger concluded. “Don’t fail him now.”

Around 1 p.m., Ferguson’s public defender Jemia Steele began her closing testimony.

She stressed to the jury that the case at hand isn’t about deciding if Ferguson was a good parent or not. It’s about murder.

“I wouldn’t dare stand here and say Dawan was father of the year,” she conceded.

Steele argued that the prosecution’s case was nothing but “theories and innuendo.” She pointed out that Christian’s body has never been found. “The state hasn’t even proven death,” she said. “We don’t know if he’s dead.”

Christian's doctors testified that, without medication, Christian would have died within one to three days.

Steele finished her closing statement by encouraging the jury to focus on the “all sorts of reasonable doubt” in the state’s case.

“If it’s possible Christian is alive, it’s not guilty,” she said.

The jury left the courtroom around 2:30 p.m. and returned a little before 5 p.m., having found Ferguson guilty of murder in the first degree. The mandatory sentence is life in prison without eligibility of parole.

After being found guilty, Ferguson was led away in handcuffs.

About The Author

Ryan Krull

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