CLAYTON, Mo. – Testimony on day two of the Dawan Ferguson trial wrapped around 4 p.m. Tuesday as St. Louis County prosecutors continued to produce witnesses in an attempt to convince jurors that Ferguson neglected and killed his 9-year-old son nearly two decades ago.
Dawan Ferguson was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death after his son, Christian, disappeared in June 2003. Christian had a rare metabolic condition, was disabled, and required around-the-clock care.
Prosecutors called medical experts, including the director of pharmacy services at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, as well as a mediator at St. Louis Family Court, to answer questions about Christian’s medical needs and the subsequent dispute regarding scheduled visitations between Christian and his sibling and their mother.
Other witnesses for the prosecution included police investigators, a current FOX 2 employee, a woman who previously lived with Dawan Ferguson and his now ex-wife, and people who once lived on the street where authorities recovered Dawan’s reported stolen vehicle.
Prosecutors are trying to prove Dawan neglected Christian over the years and ultimately killed the child.
On the morning of June 11, 2003, Dawan Ferguson called 911 from a pay phone outside a gas station at Page and Skinker to report his SUV has been carjacked with Christian still inside the vehicle. Dawan said he was bringing Christian to St. Louis Children’s Hospital at the time and had stopped to call the hospital in advance of their arrival. Police found the SUV hours later but not Christian. Court documents said Christian would have died within 48 hours without his proper medication.
Christian was never found. He was 9. The boy has since been presumed dead.
Christian was born with a genetic disorder of one’s metabolism called citrullinemia, which means the body produces more ammonia in the blood. As a result, the boy needed to be on medications and could only ingest a minuscule amount of protein in his daily diet.
On the day of the disappearance, Dawan called the police just after 6:05 a.m. to report the carjacking and his missing son. Police found the vehicle—a maroon 1999 Ford Expedition—around 7:50 a.m. on Ronbar Lane, not far from the site of the reported carjacking.
The witnesses who lived on Ronbar Lane testified seeing the Expedition in the early morning hours of June 11, prior to reports of the vehicle being stolen.
Prosecutors played the audio of Dawan’s 911 call in court but that audio was not broadcasted on a live stream of the proceedings. It’s doubtful if that audio will be made available to the wider public.
In addition, prosecutors produced records from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Centers for Environmental Information, which documented sunrise at 5:36 a.m. on June 11, 2003, in St. Louis.
Retired and former investigators who testified Tuesday said they initially expected to find the stolen vehicle and Christian in very little time because, in their experience, car thieves tend to ditch vehicles upon noticing a child. The defense suggested a car thief might not notice a nonverbal child laying down in the backseat of a vehicle.
One investigator testified Dawan had been pacing at the scene of the alleged carjacking and appeared upset and nervous. Defense attorney Jemia Steele asked if that was normal and the investigator said yes. Steele questioned if a witness or victim who is upset and distraught might have trouble providing a description of a suspect or suspects; again, the investigator said yes.
Video recorded that day from a FOX 2 news crew was also entered into evidence. An employee from FOX 2’s news department testified the station provided that video to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department at their request. The video, recorded at the scene of Page and Skinker at 7:48 a.m., shows a tan-colored Chevy Malibu. Prosecutors had printed screengrabs of the video documenting the time and the presence of the Malibu.
That vehicle belonged to Lakeisha Mayes, who was Dawan’s girlfriend and had lived with Dawan and his ex-wife at one time. Prosecutors and investigators have long wondered why her vehicle was present at the site of the alleged carjacking.
Mayes took the stand afterward and said she remembers police coming to her door to ask about Christian’s disappearance. That’s when she noticed her car was no longer in her driveway.
Mayes said Dawan had a key to her Malibu, as well as her mother and a friend.
She told the court she later called Dawan to ask about her car. She said Dawan told her he had to borrow the vehicle because he’d been carjacked and needed to look for his son. Mayes testified Dawan told her she didn’t need to talk with police if she didn’t want to.
Mayes said police found a flashlight and folding knife in her Malibu, along with bags filled with her own clothing.
St. Louis police Detective Harry Howell, the primary investigator on the case, also took the stand Tuesday and described the discovery of Dawan’s Expedition and subsequent search for Christian. Howell said the keys were still in the ignition of the vehicle, which he described as atypical behavior by an alleged car thief. Police also recovered a cellphone and other electronics in the vehicle, also unusual according to Howell, since a thief would likely take items from a stolen car before fleeing.
Under questioning from the defense, Howell said homicide detectives never got the case because police found no signs of a homicide in the vehicle or at Dawan Ferguson’s residence.
Howell testified that police were unable to obtain phone records—from either the pay phone company or St. Louis Children’s Hospital—that Dawan had called the hospital prior to the carjacking.
At one time, investigators received tips suggesting they search for Christian’s body at work sites for a construction company owned and operated by Dawan’s stepfather. Howell said nothing ever came of those tips and no search warrants were ever obtained.
Dawan remains jailed on a $5 million bond. He’s also charged with statutory rape and child molestation in another case. Prosecutors allege Dawan fathered a child with a girl under the age of 14. That trial is set for August.