ST. LOUIS — Losing a child – no matter the cause or method – is horrific. Maintaining sanity can be an arduous challenge, and getting back to any kind of normal is problematic.
Theda Person (formally Wilson-Thomas) has lived on the battleground of this pain. For 16 years she maintained that the suspicious disappearance of her son Christian Ferguson in 2003 while in the custody of his father was a case of filicide, or the killing of a child by a parent.
She vowed to fight until justice was won for her then-9-year-old son. Although that fight has been very taxing, it has helped Christian’s mother to maintain her sanity and treat the pain.
Christian’s father, Dawan Ferguson, has been charged with first-degree murder in his son’s disappearance.
Still fighting, Person recently discussed her burdensome journey with The NorthSider.
That journey has included update calls to the police, interviews with the media and word-of-mouth cries.
Person would not keep quiet.
She set up a nonprofit, Looking for an Angel. Through it, she has held a vigil and march every year, inviting community members who could brighten the search light she was already casting.
She didn’t look for only her “angel.” She joined other search parties when other children went missing, always wearing her “Looking for an Angel” T-shirt.
“If I didn’t do what I’ve done, I’m not sure he’d be facing charges today,” Person said about Christian’s father.
“My actions and persistence paid off. Justice was delayed; may justice be served.”
An outlet for Person was singing. She sang, continually, blessing karaoke mics around town, finding laughs, fellowship and camaraderie along the way.
“Support from individuals who believed me, my singing and advocating for others with missing loved ones through Looking for an Angel Inc., gave me purpose,” Person said, adding that her belief in God kept her sound and saved her life.
However, she said, her life is forever changed and she will never be the same.
She described some of the changes.
“I never saw my child’s teeth fall out, holidays haunted me and my marriage perished. I learned how implicit biases and systemic issues lead to violence and destroys communities,” Person said.
“The loss of a child is one of the most distressing events an adult can experience,” wrote Sarah K. Spilman in a 2006 Iowa State University report: “Child Abduction, Parents’ Distress, and Social Support.”
The loss, Spilman said, “represents a change in parents’ everyday interactions, a redefinition of social role, or, as some parents describe, a loss of a part of oneself.”
While a conviction won’t do much to ease the pain that Person feels, she said that she was relieved to know that “the truth has been recognized on a prosecutorial level, but knowing that my words and evidence weren’t enough 16 years ago is devastating.”
She continued by saying: “This feels like a form of justice, but this isn’t ‘just’ at all.”
Person doesn’t believe she will get the closure that would come with her son’s remains being found, but she thinks a conviction is imminent.
Where does she go from here?
“Now, I wait,” she said.
“I wait for the world to become aware of the heinous acts that nearly drove me to take my own life and robbed me of my precious child.”