Details of Disappearance Christian was last seen by his father, Dawan T. Ferguson, in St. Louis, Missouri on June 11, 2003. Photographs of Dawan are posted with this case summary. Between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m., he called the police to say that someone had driven off in his 1999 Ford Expedition SUV.
He said the car had been stolen after he got out of it, leaving the keys in the ignition, to place a phone call to Christian's doctor at a phone booth at Skinker and Page. Dawan had been driving Christian to the hospital at the time, and the boy was in the backseat of the vehicle when it was stolen.
The SUV was located unlocked and abandoned two hours later, at 8:00 a.m., about five miles from where it was taken, at a cul-de-sac where Ronbar Lane dead-ends at railroad tracks in the city of Ferguson, Missouri.
The vehicle contained numerous valuable times, including a laptop computer, a camera, two cellular phones and other electronic gear, and the keys were in the ignition. Christian was gone, however, and police and their tracker dogs found no sign of him in the vicinity. He probably wouldn't have been able to get out of the car without assistance.
Authorities stated Dawan refused to take a polygraph test and there were inconsistencies in his story. He ceased cooperating with police early on in the investigation and has hired his own private investigators.
Within two weeks of Christian's disappearance, he and his family moved out of their rental home, and investigators he hired took a lot of things away from the residence. His home has been searched twice for evidence relating to the child's case. Among other things, they found urine-stained clothes and bedding. Christian's bed had a large liquid stain that had soaked through the mattress and dripped on the floor.
Dawan was employed as a bounty hunter, locating and capturing fugitives for bail bondsmen, in 2003. He had a cellular phone in his possession on the morning of June 11, so it's unclear why he would have had to use a pay phone.
A local man who walked past the phone booth every day on his way to work said he passed the booth at 6:00 a.m. and saw an African-American man use the phone, but he didn't see an SUV in the vicinity. He identified Dawan from a photo lineup as the man he had seen.
Christian's mother, Theda, married Dawan in February 1994, four months after Christian was born. A photograph of Theda is posted with this case summary. She gave birth to a healthy baby, Christian's sister Lin (who is transgender and is referred to in many documents as his brother Connor), eight months after the wedding.
The couple separated in October 1997 and their marriage was annulled a year later. Dawan and Theda both accused each other of neglecting Christian's medical needs, among other things, during the ensuing custody battle.
Dawan got full custody of Christian and Lin in 1999, and Theda was ordered to pay child support. She filed multiple complaints against her ex-husband, accusing him of abusing and neglecting his children. After Theda remarried, her relationship with Dawan became somewhat more amicable and he allowed her more access to the children.
The state of Missouri provided home health care nurses for Christian after he became disabled in 2001. The nurses took over almost all aspects of his care, including feeding him, until mid-March 2003. After that, the state canceled the family's nursing benefits because Dawan hadn't enrolled Christian in school.
Throughout Christian's life, Dawan missed doctor's appointments and was inconsistent about giving his son his medicine. Christian had to be hospitalized at least twice as a result. In one incident, in 2000, he claimed he was unable to fill Christian's prescriptions because the pharmacy had run out of the medications. This story turned out to be untrue.
Christian's nurses noted that Dawan often failed to replenish the boy's stock of medication when they told him it was low; two of them started buying Christian's medicine themselves because Dawan wouldn't do it. Some of the family's nurses believed Christian was neglected; they stated his stepmother, Monica, wanted nothing to do with him, he wasn't adequately fed, and sometimes he didn't get his diapers changed for days at a time.
After Christian's disappearance, authorities discovered the child had probably been chronically undermedicated for at least several months prior to his reported abduction. Investigators located many full prescription bottles which should have been used up. The last time anyone ordered Christian's medications from the pharmacy was in late April 2003, six weeks prior to his disappearance, and the medicine was never picked up.
Christian's nurses stated he was normally very active and needed to be watched constantly. Without enough medication, he would become lethargic and nap much of the time, making him easier to manage.
Theda was still fighting for custody of Christian and Lin at the time of Christian's disappearance. She had been forbidden by a judge to see them except during specific visiting times, and she hadn't seen Christian for three months before he vanished because Dawan had missed two scheduled visits.
The last time Theda had a visit with Christian and Lin was in March 2003, a little over a week after Christian's nursing care stopped. She noticed both children were unkempt and dirty. Christian had a diaper rash and he had lost weight. He also smelled of ammonia and was unusually clumsy, indications at he was experiencing a citrullinemia episode, so she took him to the hospital for treatment. Dawan picked up Christian after his release from the hospital and took him home. Theda never saw her son again.
In April 2003, Theda again filed for custody of Christian and Lin. Dawan refused to let her see them. On June 9, two days before Christian's disappearance, a judge ordered Dawan to abide by the visitation schedule with Theda or be held in contempt of court. The next scheduled visit was supposed to be on June 14, but by then Christian had disappeared.
Dawan's mother and stepfather got custody of Lin in the aftermath of Christian's disappearance, and she lived with them until 2007, when her grandparents returned him to Theda's care. Theda has since divorced from her second husband.
Lin shared a room with Christian at the time of Christian's disappearance. When interviewed by police, Lin stated that early in the morning, while it was still dark outside, Dawan entered the room, wrapped Christian in a blanket, carried him out and drove away. Lin's stepsister, who was in her teens at the time, corroborated the statement, saying she thought Dawan left at about 4:00 a.m.
Lin also stated that two days before Christian's disappearance, she noticed her brother's gastric feeding tube was missing. Police found the tube during a search of the Ferguson residence and stated it was covered with bodily fluids, had tool marks on the end, and looked as if it had been forcibly removed.
Lin stated his brother appeared to be very sick and malnourished in the days prior to his disappearance, moaned continuously and appeared to be in pain. She told Monica about it, and she told her she already knew and to stay away from Christian. When Lin checked on his brother later on, Christian had stopped moaning and his eyes had rolled up in his head.
In 2004, Dawan and Monica were indicted on federal fraud charges. They used a false Social Security number on a car loan application in 2002, and forged Dawan's elderly grandmother's signature to co-sign the same loan. In 2005, Dawan pleaded guilty to three charges, served eight months in federal prison, and was released. Monica went through a pretrial diversion program and was not sentenced to jail.
Authorities believe Dawan neglected Christian's medical needs between March and June 2003, and deliberately allowed him to die of his citrullinemia. They think the child probably died on the night of June 10 and Dawan concealed his body and made up the kidnap story.
It wasn't until October 2019, however, sixteen years after the child's disappearance, that Dawan was charged with Christian's murder.
At the trial in the summer of 2022, Lin testified against her father, saying he neglected and abused both Christian and herself, and that she had to bathe her brother by herself on a regular basis. She said that on the day of Christian's disappearance, Dawan took him into the TV room, while Lin remained in their bedroom.
Lin tghen heard what sounded like a struggle, then Christian's moaning and groaning became more intense before suddenly stopping. She also heard Monica whimpering. According to Lin, after this, Dawan brought Christian back to bed. Christian wasn't moving or making any noise, but Monica stood in the doorway and appeared to be crying. Not long afterwards, Dawan came back into the bedroom, wrapped Christian in a comforter, picked him up and left.
Christian and Lin's stepsister, Deshonda Linwood, also testified. She collaborated Lin's statements and said Christian's physical state had been visibly deteriorating in 2003; he got extremely skinny, his bones protruded and his complexion changed.
Home health care workers employed by the family testified, saying Christian would sometimes be left alone for hours while tied to a bed, and that he lived in squalor, his room usually smelled of urine and vomit, and he would not get his diapers changed for days at a time.
Another witness who testified was a woman who said Dawan confessed to her that Christian had been dead before he had called 911 to report the kidnapping. Dawan supposedly told her his son was buried in the foundation of a house under construction. The witness said she became so afraid of Dawan after he made these statements that she quit her job and moved out of state to avoid him.
Dawan was convicted of his son's murder in July 2022, in spite of his defense attorney's argument that the prosecution had no proved its case. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Christian remains missing and foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.
- St. Louis Police Department
Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated July 10, 2022; details of disappearance updated.