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Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2000 / 6 Tishrei 5761

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports

'I remember the moment that I first saw the human bite marks' -- COLUMBUS, Ohio | "We got the call that someone was having difficulty breathing," said Mike Bates, a paramedic with the emergency services division of the Columbus Fire Department.

"We got halfway there, and we got a call back saying that the person who wasn't breathing was a child."

Bates' ambulance usually was stationed at a fire department facility at 1716 Parsons Ave., but on this morning he and his crew were already out on the streets when the call came in.

Three different vehicles were immediately sent to the residence from where a 911 call had been placed -- a mobile home at 3431 Libby Drive, on the south end of town. "We knew it was a child, and we wanted to get him some help as quickly as possible," Bates said.

So there were two emergency units and a fire truck in front of the mobile home, all with their sirens screaming.

"And the people wouldn't let us in," Bates said. "The door was locked, and we were pounding, and they wouldn't open up -- they were yelling at each other."

The people yelling were Patrick Bourgeois and his girlfriend, Tracy Lynn Bratton. As we reported Sunday, they are the killers of Bourgeois' son, Patrick Jr., 3, who was known as P.J. On this morning, though, no one yet knew what they had done.

"We were standing out there with heart drugs, with a defibrillator -- time was passing," Bates said. "We were pounding and shouting: 'Columbus fire! Columbus fire, let us in!'

"But they would not open the door. Their yelling was not like people who were grieving over a child -- it was like two people in an argument with each other."

Finally Bourgeois and Bratton opened the door. It was Bratton who had placed the 911 call. The emergency workers ran in.

"The little boy is lying there on the floor. . . ." Bates said. His voice broke.

"We start working on him. He's not breathing. We start doing chest compressions, trying to breathe with a bag for him.

"I remember the moment that I first saw the human bite marks on his side. Like someone had taken a big bite out of his flesh. You could see where every tooth had bitten into the boy's skin. Upper and lower.

"It didn't take us long to realize that he's dead. There's no heart."

Bates kept looking at the child's face as he worked on him. "His ears were red and bruised, like someone had pulled on them," Bates said. "One of the ears had these fingernail marks, like someone had ripped at it.

"[Bourgeois and Bratton] had tried to clean him up before we saw him -- to wipe the blood off him. That's why they wouldn't let us in. So it wouldn't be so obvious what they had done to him."

On the way to Children's Hospital, 12 minutes away, Bates said that "we put a breathing tube in him. We all knew he was dead, but we wanted to give him every chance. We couldn't get an IV in him, so we put a bone needle in. One of the guys in the squad was new on the job, and I saw him looking at that little boy, and you could read the guy's face: `Why would they do this to him?'"

Combining the time in the home and the trip to the hospital, "We had [the boy] for 25 minutes," Bates said. "We tried to give him some drugs to bring him back [to life], but we weren't getting any [response] back."

Inside the hospital emergency room, Bates said, "I saw more bite marks, on his back and on his neck. I could see the tape marks on his wrists and on his ankles -- bruise marks where they had taped his legs and arms together so he couldn't move, so he couldn't help himself. They had beaten him and taped him up and left him bleeding in a room."

The reason we are reporting on this case in detail is that the killers have been released from prison early -- Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Nodine Miller, ruling that what Bourgeois and Bratton did to that 3-year-old boy was "fraught with ignorance, immaturity and inexperience, more than malevolence," set them free even before they would have had their first chance to ask for a hearing by a parole board.

Not a word of testimony was ever heard in this case -- not a witness was ever called. We have sought out the people who know exactly what happened to that child, and in the days to come will report what they have told us about how P.J. Bourgeois died, and what happened afterward.

"Immaturity and inexperience, more than malevolence" on the part of the killers, according to the judge? Tomorrow we will hear from an emergency medic who tried to revive the child after Bates and his rescue crew carried him into Children's Hospital.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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