Your Father’s Murderer: A Letter to Zachary

by Crane-Station

hat tip Xena at frederickleatherman.com for turning my attention to this. This is also posted at Firedoglake in the MyFDL Reader Diaries, and at froggravy.wordpress.com

This is the best documentary I have ever seen, that I never want to see again. For those who are not familiar with this film or with this case, it is heartbreaking, and yet it brings to light important issues in a flawed legal system. The film is also about love, survival and activism.

In 2001, Dr. Andrew Bagby was found murdered in his scrubs, in a park in Latrobe, PA. He was an only son of very loving parents. He had an astonishing extended family of friends and relatives, spanning the continent from California where he lived as a boy to Newfoundland, Canada, where he attended medical school. He had been shot five times, in the face, head, chest and buttocks. Andrew Bagby was 28 years old.

Dr. Bagby had just ended a relationship with another doctor, Shirley Turner, who he had met in Newfoundland. Her possessiveness and inappropriate behavior had become burdensome. He put her on a plane back to her home in Iowa, but she immediately returned to Pennsylvania by car. Evidence quickly indicated Shirley Turner as the suspect in Andrew Bagby’s murder. Shirley Turner was 40 years old.

Shirley Turner fled to Canada, where she had initially met Andrew Bagby. In Canada, she was arrested on suspicion of pre-meditated first degree murder. She was also pregnant with Andrew Bagby’s child. She was released on bail immediately.

She had the child and named him Zachary. Zachary looked like Andrew had looked, when he was a baby. Andrew’s distraught parents began a heartbreaking fight for visitation and custody of Zachary. The grandparents loved the boy and endured the likes of strip searches for each cherished hour that they spent with him. They were forced to stomach a relationship with their son’s likely murderer, to have what few hours they did get with the boy.

Shirley Turner was arrested a second time and held pending extradition to the US to face the murder charge. She appealed the extradition and during the pendency of the appeal, she was awarded custody of the child and allowed to go free. The Canadian court found her to be neither a risk for flight nor a risk to the safety of her community.

What happened next was unimaginable.

Andrew Bagby’s close friend Kurt Kuenne, who was a filmmaker, made a documentary of this story. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named the film one of the five top documentaries of the year. Among those who named it one of the best films of 2008 were Time Out Chicago, The Oregonian, the Times Herald-Record, Slant Magazine, and WGN Radio Chicago.[7] The website Film School Rejects place the film in third place in their 30 Best Films of the Decade list.[8] The Film Vault included the film on their top 5 good movies you never want to see again.[9] Source.

The film’s trailer is here:

The full-length documentary film by Kurt Kuenne is here:

62 Responses to Your Father’s Murderer: A Letter to Zachary

  1. Ree says:

    Mr. & Mrs. Bagby are two of the finest and strongest people I’ve ever seen. What happened to their family was unthinkable…I found myself yelling at the TV. Evil is a very real thing in this world.

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t know if anyone fought this yesterday but John good seems to be the witness Mom was speaking of in the pre trial motions to have his identity concealed. And mom said that they had a witness who saw the whole thing .

  3. colin black says:

    Just watch doc about R Chase the vampire killer.
    The detective whom arrested him knew he had already killed people with out remorse.
    He over killed with both knife an gun.
    He had slaughted a young Woman in Sacramento an made of with her 21mth old baby

    The Detectives arrived at the motel complex he lived at guns drawn .
    Knowing he was armed.
    No answer to his door but could hear movements.
    Not haveing a search warrant he went to phone his boss.
    AS he did so he spotted the suspect exiting the room.
    Carrying a carboard box full of bloody rags .
    He started to run away an his partner rugby tackled him to the ground.

    He fought like a tiger an reached for his handgun.
    Wherupon the other detective arrived gun cocked an stuck it in his ear hole and said.
    Stop fighting or I will blow your fn head off.

    He never stopped fighting an the detectives said thats when I realised Im not a cold blooded killer like he is.
    The struggle continued an they got him cuffed up .
    The inside of his room was wall to wall blood but no sign of the Baby.

    It struck me as the detective whom had the gun to his head said.
    I knew I could kill him an I knew it would have been justified.
    But we are policemen sworn to uphold the law an not cold blooded killers even of monsters that deserve to die.

    Kinda makes foggens excuses even more lame if thats at all possable.

  4. Xena says:

    LOL@ Malisha. Let’s not forget bad faith, direct of proximate, intrusive. 🙂

  5. Malisha says:

    Something that occurred to me a day after watching the film: The Canadian child protection system, which the grandparents apparently could not access. Well, frankly, it’s as broken as ours is down here. And as little held accountable for harm.

    There was a little girl in Mississippi in the early 90s whose father had evidently molested her and then of course the inevitable divorce while the various social services “personnel” evaluated everything and one of the female social workers kind of fell in love with good daddy and blah blah blah. There was, however, an older daughter of the mother’s by a previous marriage and she grabbed her little sister (older girl was 19 and little sister was 5) and fled to Canada. That older girl had been molested by her step-father, who was the one molesting the little girl. Anyway, in Canada she got a job as an au-pair and claimed that she was an unwed mother, and so forth. The father in Mississippi had a detective find them and then splash bank the little girl ended up in foster care in Canada while the Canadian child protection authorities evaluated the case. The social worker in Canada said she believed the child about having been abused, and in FOUR DAYS she heard from her boss that she had to change her report and say the child had not been molested so the Canadian authorities could return the child to Mississippi, which was against Canadian law if the child HAD been molested. When she resisted changing her report, she was notified that she would be fired without severance and her pension would be taken away for “insubordination.” She caved. But the older sister had SEEN the report and READ it and came to her to find out how that had happened. Her answer: “Do you think Canada is any different from Mississippi? Well it’s not. I can’t afford to lose my job and my pension. Even if I do, another social worker will make a new report saying your sister recanted. There’s nothing I can do.”

    I thought about that while watching the film, about the mess the grandparents went through to try to convince the authorities to protect Zachary.

    Government protects abusers, not victims. It’s an age-old habit.

  6. Tee says:

    Professor, I died a little inside when I saw this documentary. This is what happens so very often the very system that suppose to protect us does almost nothing. It seems to me that it goes over & beyond to make sure that accused rights are not violated, but the victim ole well, there on there on. The victim is allowed to be victimized over and over again, there families made to listen to lies about there love one and there past dig up all in the name of justice. Justice should be for the victim & there family, the law should do more to accommodate them instead it panders to the accused. Everyone is entitled to a fair trail but putting the victim on trial should never be an option.

    • Malisha says:

      With you 100% on this one, Tee. When I did day-care for a living, if a kid hurt another kid I would isolate him (or her) quickly and then turn ALL MY ATTENTION to the victim. I would not spend even ten seconds telling the aggressor what was wrong with his conduct. Just plain: “You’re on time out,” and then I would ask the other children to help me comfort the victim. They took part gladly, offering the victim comfort and taking him off to play with them in another area of the room, so that they could all effectively IGNORE the aggressor. I would actually stand with my BACK to the aggressor until the whole thing was back on course and then, if the aggressor was quiet, I would let him back into the group but if he was protesting, I would simply wait out the protests until he was quiet and then ask, “Are you willing to go back in and play peacefully now?” If he said yes he could go back in. If he started to fuss I would turn my back again. It only had to happen a few times before the problems were over. I would never listen to, “But he [blah blah blah blah]” meaning “he deserved it.” No violence, no way, ever.

    • Tee says:

      Correction, Should have used “their” in the above statement don’t know what I was thinking about the brain tends to sleep when the kids are gone.

  7. Operacarla says:

    Can somebody tell me why we are calling GZ fogen? Thanks!

  8. Malisha says:

    CROSS-POSTED WITH APOLOGY:

    O’Mara and West want to make sure ALL MEDIA SOURCES report things they want reported, and ALL MEDIA SOURCES avoid saying anything negative about Fogen. It’s part of their general intimidation process.

    Such things can work. It’s just like witness intimidation. In my unending divorce case in the 1980s and 1990s, my ex-husband SUED every witness I had, every doctor I went to, every professional who tried to help me, every member of my family, and every friend who appeared to be lending me support. Several of his frivolous suits were dismissed and a couple of his lawyers ended up with Rule 11 sanctions against him. At one point one of his lawyers called MY LAWYER asking for information the lawyer could use against his own client to make him agree to let the lawyer off his case! Then this guy, who had done terrible harm to people at my ex-husband’s urgings (and for free), exclaimed to my lawyer: “He’s gonna sue me; he sues everybody; he shoulda sued his mother for giving birth to him!” I had a good laugh at that one. That lawyer DESERVED what he got (a hefty Rule 11), of course. But my point is: abusers will intimidate anybody who stands behind or for their victims. And there are lawyers all over the place who will encourage and even inflame this behavior. It is intimidating, even to the press.

    I think NBC should bring an anti-SLAPP suit against O’Mara and the Philadelphia lawyer.

    News folks: Frances Robles of the Miami Herald, who reported WRONGLY and MISLEADINGLY that there had been “eight burglaries, nine thefts and one other shooting” in RTL during the year before Trayvon Martin was killed, not only refuses to correct that once I sent her the real information, but she refuses to speak with me about it and refuses to deal with my insistence that it is a significant issue. She has told me that she is soon leaving the Miami Herald and her kiss off e-mail to me was as polite and dismissive as the General (Jones) at the Pentagon who (in about 1992) politely thanked me for bringing to his attention the fact that a colonel in the marksmanship unit at Fort Benning, George had been identified by the Army CID for raping children.

    Don’t fret; I’m shopping this information around for a journalist who may take an interest. It will hit somewhere. Especially in light of the fact that “The media reporting in a slanted way about the case” is now a hot topic. Anybody who knows a good investigative journalist, post a “heads up” here (meaning on the most recent thread Professor Leatherman puts up) — thanks.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      You go , girl! Keep prodding these reporters!

      Sorry about your ordeal with the ex. I had one similar – fortunately he didn’t do quite as much collateral damage because he didn’t have as much moolah to throw around. Suffice it to say that his karma eventually came home to roost.

  9. grahase says:

    Well Tracy Martin Is A Liar (according to the lawyer of the killer of Tracy Martins son).

    • grahase says:

      In an explosive new interview, Zimmerman’s attorneys say that Sanford police officers will be ‘cooperating witnesses’ against the Martin family; they also insinuate that the State has engaged in ‘witness tampering’!

      Quoted from YouTube video by Sanford Watch.

      • Mike says:

        Thanks for the video,was looking for that all day.seems like the defence is very afraid of dee dees words, because they easily place Trayvons phone where the fight started.

      • Xena says:

        These are the guys who said they want the case to be tried in court and not in public opinion. Seeing the look on O’Mara’s face when Jean mentioned “experts” speaks volumes. Experts say that is not GZ’s voice.

      • Looolooo says:

        …….gee what happened? we were talking about the Bagby travesty!

        • grahase says:

          Don’t worry too much about the interruption in the current topic. Some missed the program and I have posted it for them. Of course, you are free to by-pass the video.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it. -Martin Luther King Jr.

      • Jun says:

        The cops have lawyered up. Do the cops really want to open that door is the inquiry.

    • Jun says:

      Pffft

      This coming from the same guy who lies in all his motions (OMARA)

      whether or not Tracy Martin recognized the voice, it does not change the facts of that night and numerous on scene witnesses attribute the screaming to the dead kid who was killed

      experts even stated that it was not Cheorge Zimmerman

      The only person who is tampering with evidence is Omara

      • Malisha says:

        Exactly. This is another ploy. “Tracy Martin is a liar” is just another form of “Trayvon Martin was a thug.” Ignore it.

        We all knew that the police were “witnesses for the defendant” because they couldn’t go back and change what they did in the beginning, and don’t want to face the music now. But they have nothing to SAY about it; their opinions do not MATTER; they are not EXPERTS in anything but bagging evidence, arresting people, and taking their statements. They are not witnesses in voice identification; they are not witnesses in seriousness of injuries.

        Shame on O’Mara and West. But who cares?

      • Two sides to a story says:

        They certainly cherry-picked all the evidence in their disturbing motions. All due respect to defense attorneys, but OM and West are shocking me with their bald-faced lies. Again –

        One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it. -Martin Luther King Jr.

      • Vickie Votaw says:

        I don’t find it strange that Tracy didn’t recognize Trayvon’s screams. He had probably never been in a situation that would elicit such an anguished response. Trayvon knew it was hopeless, he was going to die. Sabrina recognized his screams immediately, she probably dealt with all his boo-booes, and spent more time with him than his dad did. I can’t watch o’mara lie anymore, I just read what you guys say about it.

      • grahase says:

        Remember everyone — Even Tugboat said – It doesn’t even sound like me when listening to the screams on the recording played by Serino.

        Remember everyone — Tugboats father, on the stand, said he didn’t recognize the screams as Tugboats the first time. Then he used headphones.

        I think the defence omitted those facts — Both father and son — caught on tape.

        • Lonnie Starr says:

          Regardless of who they’re trying to say did the screaming for help, what the jury will hear for themselves is going to be George questioning Trayvon, while the screaming is going on. Anyone think that the man who is questioning the kid, will also be believed to have been screaming for his very life at that time? Less pausing to make eye contact with witnesses, while he’s only moments away from eternity?

          Will that add up to a view that GZ holding onto TM by his clothing — while drawing, aiming and shifting his other hand, so as to be sure not to hit it when he fired the fatal shot — was, at that very same time, reasonably frightened for his own safety at the hands of an unarmed kid?

          Some how, for some strange reason, I don’t think so, but perhaps that’s because I’m not qualified to judge that. GZ needs to have fired the shot at the ‘t’ where he claims he was being beaten to within an inch of his life, and then again some 40+ feet south of there, where he again claims he was being beaten to within an inch of his life. Call me crazy but doesn’t that sort of story require that two shots be fired? One at the ‘t’ and another one 40+ feet away, where the angry 204lb armed and dangerous adult, was being beaten so badly he feared for his life, by a “skin and bones” 155lb., 17 year old unarmed child? Who, according to the story, already had a hollow point bullet chew up his lungs and heart at the ‘t’?

          If the SP can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that GZ actually told this story, I can easily see why his attorney has turned red faced and covered with sweat, while trying to explain what might have happened that night.

    • Tee says:

      Do all they might it won’t change the evidence. There client is a killer, he committed 1st degree murder he is lucky that he was only charged with 2nd. He will not escape his fate whether its in the justice system or with God he will answer for his crime against this child. He will answer for stealing this child’s voice & claiming it as his own. His fate is sealed.

  10. Two sides to a story says:

    It’s unimaginable that the mother didn’t want her baby to live . . . I’m already sad and now I’m really, really sad~

    • Xena says:

      It’s unimaginable that the mother didn’t want her baby to live . . . I’m already sad and now I’m really, really sad~

      She was obsessed with making others sorry for rejecting her.

      For me, “Dear Zachary” is also a story about strength, endurance. It shows that it’s alright to be angry. It’s alright to feel so much pain that you want someone dead, but in your heart of hearts, you cannot kill — you depend on the justice system to work.

      Even in disappointment, you take all that hurt, all that anger, and with your experience, package it up and make it a mission to inform others, speak to those in decision making positions, do what you can to change the law to save others from the same pain. The law that helped Turner commit 2 murders was changed about 7 years after she killed Zachary; 2 years after the documentary was released.

      SYG law can also be changed — state by state by state.

    • Tee says:

      I don’t think she killed the baby because she didn’t want him to live she killed the baby to make the parents pay for coming after her, for there son rejecting her, for her son rejecting her she couldn’t kill the parents so she did the next worst thing.

      • Xena says:

        I don’t think she killed the baby because she didn’t want him to live she killed the baby to make the parents pay for coming after her, for there son rejecting her, for her son rejecting her she couldn’t kill the parents so she did the next worst thing.

        Turner had been rejected by her last boyfriend. Thinking that no one wanted her, she was going to punish everyone by taking the child’s life too. It’s like saying, “See what you made me do?”

  11. Malisha says:

    The thing that was so chilling about this movie is the charachter of the murderer. It is what I call the “narcissistic worldme” type — that is not a psychiatric term.

    These people are dangerous and horrible, of course, but for some unknown reason people fall in thrall to them. People become “infected” with them. They are MUCH more successful than normal people at getting loyalty, help, assistance, donations, court rulings that are incomprehensible and insanely beneficial to them in spite of all the evidence against them, etc. etc. ad nauseam. They are a weird combination of the chameleon who changes from one moment to the next and the vampire to drinks blood and thrives on invisibility.

    They cheat in every transaction; they lie in every word; they present very well. They are also very sexy. Damn, they’re the scourge!

    Kudos to the film-maker. No amount of success is too much for his incomparable work.

    • I think the term that best describes these people is “charmers”. These people are very narcissistic. (Most domestic abusers are also “charmers” too). “Charmers” can also have a Jekyll and Hyde personality and can draw you in and then destroy you. They completely lack a conscience.

      • Many of these narcissistic sociopaths are politicians, bankers, CEOs and the uber rich.

        They are the more intelligent and successful members of this “select” subspecies of the human population.

        We who are empathetic must always be vigilant and we must never forget that, despite what the defendant has done, the damage he has caused to society is but a drop in the ocean compared to the damage caused by the more intelligent and successful members of the subspecies to which he belongs.

    • Right, and somehow along with it all comes the entitlement to shoot and kill people who reject the person, and then to claim that the gun was for protection, and then to claim to have no idea where the gun is or what it was doing on the fatal day, and finally, to claim that the gun was in the victim’s possession.

      Each time the person is busted for lying, the story changes.

      • Malisha says:

        This is the part of the Trayvon Martin “story” that pisses me off. First, “my son was headed back to his truck when Trayvon Martin jumped him from behind and began to beat him to death,” then [two bozo lawyers] “Trayvon Martin broke my client’s nose” and then, “Look at all the blood on the back of his head, that must mean serious injury, that must mean he’s innocent,” then, “he is not a racist,” then, “Trayvon Martin stole jewelry and smoked marijuana,” then, “Dee Dee lied,” then, “you are all bad people and that’s why you are attacking poor Cheorge,”…

        And each time the story gets disproved, the focus gets trained on another ring in the circus…

        But not on the elephant.

        • Exactly, and what I found to be sad and in common in the two tragedies is that the victim was somehow at fault. The story always changes and evolves so that the victim is at fault.

          Words fail on that written opinion in Canada. That last judge belongs in prison as well, if you ask me. As someone in the documentary points out, “Who is the system protecting?”

      • Two sides to a story says:

        I would think that just because of her claims, and because she was awaiting extradition because she had already fled would be enough to have not let her out on bail. What a case!

        Nobody is that charming!

        • Right, and it’s one thing that she wasn’t woman enough to face the charge in the PA jurisdiction. She didn’t even have the common decency to turn the baby over to someone else’s care after she did flee.

      • Cercando Luce says:

        @Crane-Station: “Each time the person is busted for lying, the story changes.”

        And unbelievably, each time the liar finds supporters for his/her latest story by appealing to something in general the supporter can agree with:
        a) The media are powerful and can ruin people’s reputations
        b) A mother would never harm her baby
        c) There are black criminals in this country
        d) Prosecutors can railroad innocent people
        e) The USA has corrupt, powerful entities that individuals should stand against
        f) Racism is a heinous accusation

        even though not one of these applies to the specific cases of Shirley Turner or George Zimmerman.

  12. nan11 says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I remember when this case was in the headlines, but I never understood the true heartbreak behind it.

    I hope we have the system fixed, but somehow I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we don’t.

  13. Rachael says:

    Though I never knew about Zachary until to day, as someone else said, thank you for keeping him “alive” and he will never be forgotten.

    Those parents as the strongest, bravest people I can imagine – I don’t think I could live through what they did and come out of it to do what they did. Bless them.

    I am so glad I got to see this video. Thank you professor for posting this and becoming part of Justice for Zachary.

    • You are welcome. In 2010 in Canada, as a result of the grandparents’ activist work, the legislation changed, regarding bail and conditions of bail, for a person accused of a violent crime.

      She was a danger and should not have been released on bail.

      • Malisha says:

        Yes, I found the reasoning so idiotic, and it proves that courts are inferentially illiterate:

        “She’s not a danger because she killed the person she wanted dead. So therefore everybody else is safe. She doesn’t want to kill the rest of us (especially me, because I’m giving her what she wants) so we’re safe. Let her go.”

        In that same mode, we shouldn’t even punish people who kill. You can’t bring their victims back to life, so it serves no purpose. You’re not protecting anybody because they’ve already killed the people they wanted to kill. Just give them stern instructions not to kill again and let them go.

        Why haven’t these judges been targeted with huge media campaigns to get them disbarred, get them off the bench, and take away all their money? DAMN!!

  14. Yes, i remember watching this awhile ago. And it’s easy to forget it’s a documentary because it’s so riveting but smooth, more like a movie.. even the real people featured seem like actors.

    this woman deserved to be under the prison and it’s that judges fault for letting her have that baby. that’s just a fact. it’s scary that a single person could have so much power over a baby aside from a parent or family member.

    and if one parent is accused of murdering the other one, it’s reasonable to assume the children aren’t in the best possible environment. ok.
    duh!!!

    • Thank you, shannoninmiami, Xena tells me that you share in the hat tip for this.

      The whole legal system behind this was infuriating. The grandparents were treated like thugs while the courts fawned over the woman. Awful.

  15. Xena says:

    Professor, I have a comment in moderation because I forgot and entered 2 links.

    [I took care of it]

  16. Xena says:

    Crane-Station and Professor, thank you so much for presenting this. When I first heard about the case, it was through someone who was seeking activism and promotion of the documentary. I can’t remember what I did now (maybe added my name to a petition) and had a friend on CNN IReports to post there about it — then life went on; I worked, my husband took ill and died — those kinda things where you don’t have or take time to follow-up.

    In 2010, Canada passed a “Zachary Bill.”
    http://www.dearzachary.com/
    So, it took almost 2 yrs for Canada to make sure that what happened to Zachary does not happen again. But, it took private parties to make that happen.

    It gives somewhat of a melancholy feeling — an innocent life was taken so that other innocent lives may be save.

    I just checked and the Facebook page is still active.

    https://www.facebook.com/dearzachary

    Thank you again. As Zachary shall never be forgotten, neither shall Trayvon Martin.

  17. blushedbrown says:

    follow

  18. I’ve known and worked for many judges and for 5 years or so in the early 80s I wanted to be a judge. I felt born to it, but in the end, I realized I could never live myself for endlessly sending young Black males with no prior record to prison for 27 months for selling a rock of crack.

    The job is difficult and demanding under the best of circumstances and its easy to gradually lose your humanity and soul to hypocrisy so that the person who stares at you from his prison in the medicine cabinet in your bathroom is unrecognizable.

    That said, the judge who let this woman out of prison and allowed her to retain custody of her child when she was charged with the premeditated murder of his father is incomprehensible.

    No set of circumstances that I can imagine would ever support and justify what he did and the consequences of his decision will haunt the living for as long as this story is known.

  19. Mike says:

    This was one of the greatest documentarys I’ve ever seen

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