Your Father’s Murderer: A Letter to Zachary
hat tip Xena at frederickleatherman.com for turning my attention to this.
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 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. The website Film School Rejects place the film in third place in their 30 Best Films of the Decade list. The Film Vault included the film on their top 5 good movies you never want to see again. Source.
The film’s trailer is here:
The full-length documentary film by Kurt Kuenne is here: