CLAYTON, Mo. – Lin Ferguson, Christian Ferguson’s sister, testified in court Wednesday morning that she was abused by their father, Dawan Ferguson. As a result, she was hesitant to report anything about Christian’s disappearance to authorities or DFS.
Dawan Ferguson is on trial for 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.
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.
At the start of her testimony, Lin identified Dawan Ferguson as a “sperm donor” and not her father.
Lin, who was 8 years old at the time of Christian’s disappearance, said she shared a bedroom with Christian while other siblings had their own rooms in the house.
According to Lin, Christian was very thin after a January 2001 trip to the hospital. She said you could see Christian’s pelvic bones and the notches in his spine. She remembered being able to play with her brother before that 2001 hospital visit and said he could get around normally too.
Lin described her father’s abuse and mistreatment of Christian over the years. She told the court she never witnessed Dawan feed or give medicine to Christian. She said Christian was tethered to his bed with his comforter on multiple occasions. She remembered one instance when the family went to a hotel that night and left Christian restrained on his bed with the lights turned off at the residence. She could not recall any adults ever being at the home when that happened.
Lin testified that when she was between the ages of 6 and 8, she routinely bathed Christian because he was dirty and sitting in soiled diapers for prolonged periods of time.
On June 10, 2003, the day before Christian’s disappearance, Lin said she noticed Christian’s feeding tube (G-tube) was missing. She said told Dawan’s wife at the time, who said she already knew about it.
Christian was moaning and groaning the entire day and seemed to be in immense pain, Lin said. Her brother’s discomfort continued into the night.
Lin said Dawan and his ex-wife, Monica, came into the room in the middle of the night and took Christian into the TV room. Lin does not believe Dawan and Monica knew she was awake at the time.
Lin told the court she could not see into the TV room from her bed. She described what sounded like a struggle. She said Christian’s moaning and groaning got more intense and then suddenly stopped. She then heard Monica make a noise that sounded like whimpering.
Dawan then brought Christian back into his bed. Lin said Monica stood in the doorway and seemed to be crying.
Christian was not moving and not making any noise at this time, Lin said.
A short time later, Dawan returned to the bedroom and picked Christian up in a comforter, Lin said. Dawan carried Christian into his car and left with the boy.
Lin never saw her brother again.
Jemia Steele, Dawan’s defense attorney, asked Lin if she remembered ever speaking with the police, child advocacy personnel, or federal agents in the months and years following her brother’s disappearance. Steele pointed to a November 2003 interview with an FBI agent in which Lin said Dawan took Christian away in the car that night but did not include anything about hearing a struggle in the TV room.
Lin said she could not recall what she told police on June 11 about her brother’s disappearance.
Steele then pointed to recorded conversations between Lin and her mother. Lin confirmed some of their conversations were recorded over the years.
The defense claimed in a 2003 audio recording that Lin told her mother Dawan was taking care of Christian, adding that Lin never told her mother that Christian had been tied to a bed. Lin said she did tell her mother that something had happened to Christian.
The defense attempted to paint a picture that Lin did not mention certain things at the time of Christian’s disappearance and, curiously, only chose to disclose these details in recent years.
Upon re-direct, prosecutors asked Lin if she could remember every conversation she had from when she was 8 or 9 years old. Lin said she could not.
It was at that point Lin mentioned she’d been the victim of abuse by Dawan. Lin did not elaborate on the nature of that abuse and neither prosecutors nor the defense team asked her any follow-up questions.
Following Lin Ferguson’s testimony, jurors heard from Martha Finnegan, a child and adolescent forensic interviewer for the FBI.
Finnegan, who has worked for the FBI since 2001, said it’s common for children to sometimes leave out details when discussing abuse or crimes they may have either experienced or witnessed. She said any number of factors in the environment could affect the interview, such as the actual location and number of people present. She said the presence of law enforcement could also have an adverse effect on a child’s responses.
According to Finnegan, it’s common for children to be more talkative about difficult subject matter as they get older or become adults. When asked why that might be, Finnegan explained that a person may be at an older developmental stage and thus have the mental capacity to better express themselves. She said it’s possible a child will open up once they are away from a particular environment or living apart from someone who may have coerced them into saying something different.
On May 22, 2004, Finnegan recorded an interview with Lin about Christian’s disappearance. That video was played in court, though the audio was not broadcast on the live stream outside the courtroom.
Christian and Lin’s stepsister, Deshonda Linwood, was next to take the stand. She testified that Christian looked very skinny and his complexion had changed in the first half of 2003 prior to his disappearance. She said you could see “protrusions” on his body. The prosecution had her clarify she meant Christian’s bones were easily visible on his slight frame.
In the early morning hours of June 11, Linwood said she woke up between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to use the bathroom. When she left the bathroom, she saw Dawan leaving Christian and Lin’s room. Dawan was cradling someone in his arms and had them completely covered with a blanket. Linwood said she asked what was going on but Dawan told her to go back to sleep.
Under cross-examination from the defense, Linwood said she had witnessed Dawan provide Christian with food and medication in the past. She was then asked about a 2003 FBI interview and to explain why she never mentioned Christian’s complexion or his deteriorating physical state. Linwood said the investigator’s questions were focused on Christian’s disappearance. She said she did tell the agent about seeing Dawan carrying someone in a blanket on June 11.
The final witness of the day, Ruth Coleman, had multiple roles in the Fergusons’ lives. Coleman was first a teacher for Christian and Lin but she eventually became their live-in nanny for about a year. Around the same time, she began dating Dawan Ferguson.
She told the court she knew Christian before Jan. 2001 and said the boy could walk, talk, and feed himself. Coleman said Dawan would order and pick up Christian’s medications. She also saw the two together and, when asked by defense counsel, said the boy never seemed afraid of his father during this time.
Following Christian’s disappearance, Coleman was approached by the FBI about wearing a wire. She agreed to do so and met with Dawan on two occasions to record their conversations. She said she was instructed to get Dawan to talk about Christian.
When she asked Dawan about Christian’s disappearance, Coleman said he responded, “You know me. I did what I had to do.” Dawan said nothing else about the subject and she didn’t push on the matter any further.
Coleman said she had made plans to attend a prayer vigil in Christian’s honor but that Dawan told her not to attend the event.
The next time Coleman wore a wire around Dawan, he made no mention of Christian or the boy’s disappearance.
The defense asked Coleman who ended her relationship with Dawan Ferguson prior to the disappearance. She said she did. She added that Christian was not a cause for the relationship ending.
Coleman said she would still meet up with Dawan even after wearing the wire to record him and also admitted the two were intimate every once and a while.