Your Father’s Murderer: A Letter to Zachary

Posted: December 7, 2012 in criminal justice system
Tags: , , , , ,

hat tip Xena at 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.[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:

  1. ed nelson says:

    The frame of this murder case is similar to that one that is the body of the non fiction book: ” In A Child’s Name”, wherein a dentist, (another medical type), from Marion Indiana was convicted of the murder of his wife in Brooklyn. A very sorry tale of wife abuse ending in a brutal murder of her, and the custody fight by both sets of grand parents, which was maybe the poignant aspect of the story, that the murderer’s parents were were supportive and enabling to a fault of their son the dentist, murderer!

    That’s a story worth comparison to this post.

    Amazingly, the Marion/Grant co. Indiana authorities/ functionaries, judges what all, were obstructive all along the way to the attempts of the maternal grand parents attempts to gain custody of the child, from the indiana grand parents who had taken him there.

    I am wondering though in Zachary’s case, whether it has gone to the level of a conviction, if not, I wouldn’t go off half cocked until it is established fact that the lady Dr. is really the perpetrator.

    My little sense of a lingering doubt, would be: why would a medical Dr. need to resort to a rough and tumble venue like shooting the guy in the woods? MD’s can do it more efficient than that!! (they do often enough…)

    On the other hand in the NY case the dentist, didn’t use laughing gas or anything tech either, he beat her up with blunt force if I remember.

    • Well, what happened in this case was that the woman was awaiting extradition to the US, but the judge in Canada really fawned over her, allowed her out to walk the streets and helped her to appeal the extradition.

      While she was out, she killed the baby and herself in an unconscionable murder-suicide.

      I cannot imagine why the judge did that, finding in a written opinion, that the woman’s crime, while violent, was specific, and that there were no indications that she was unsafe for the community. Meanwhile, eight people had restraining orders against her, she had threatened to stab an inmate while in jail, and she had threatened to kill another man who she had dated briefly.

      • ed nelson says:

        Thanks Crane, now I will watch the rest of the video, What a nutty Dr. she was, I could tell you of a personal anectdote of a psychaitrist who commited suicide in a very picturesque way… But I digress.

        good post as always!

      • Thank you, Ed. Unfortunately, on this tragic documentary I am unable to say, “I hope you enjoy it.”

  2. ed nelson says:

    I think i’m getting sort of wordy, and a note to myself now is: Consider the entirety of the post and watch the video/or other add ons, before posting cursory comments! Well I sure like writing comments and of course… I’m breaking out my latest vocabulary acquisitions… thanks for the platform too!


    The video is very thought provoking in diverse ways.

    To start with it is a tear jerker of the first order. It has a revelatory side too that runs a little against any staunch notions of the superiority of highly educated persons being above the rest of us as anyway inoculated from criminality psychopathology and/or going off the edge.

    Another thing that springs to mind is the incompetence of officialdom in general, but in particular as has been depicted often, in the backwaters locations and rural areas, where the talent sometimes has been found less than “stellar”. Eg., “I’m just a country Lawyer” (Sam Ervin, laying it on heavy!… ); the Dodge Sheriff?” “You in heap a big trouble boy!”, “Dukes of Hazard”??, The Andy Griffith show with Barnie Fife? Oh there’s better examples! haha.

    On the issue of backwaters, would it be fair to wonder, if them areas don’t suffer from what they call: “Brain drain”, especially looking at that horrendously bad weather, and Iv’e met so many folks that don’t miss the places they were from in northern latitudes after a taste of the sun belt. IE., anybody with a pig skin is keen to go, leaving behind positions for 2nd and 3rd stringers, (“Oh the humanity!”)

    But is it so much more better really in the last analysis in the metropolitan centers or do the cosmopolitan climes fare better when is factored in the chicanery of the modern facts of life? The modern systems and all the tools and ability to buy spin?

    Better to receive judgement about most everything, let the truth come out with a minimum of prejudgement, realize how little we know of what really happened.

    Tear jerker, and though I for one, think I understand the Grandad’s sentiments of how he might have done, and his desire for a shot at revenge too, but I’m seeing a verity play out that is not for one such me to say, but, (“you can’t get there from here… “).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s