Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2000 / 7 Tishrei 5761
'Had they shot him in the
head, he would have
COLUMBUS, Ohio | "We knew we had a
3-year-old with no heartbeat. They had him on a
cot when they brought him in from the ambulance.
The first I saw him . . . Oh, my G-d. . . ."
The man speaking those words -- Mike Cogdill --
was a paramedic assigned to the emergency room
of Children's Hospital in Columbus on the day that
P.J. Bourgeois, 3, was brought in by a Columbus
Fire Department rescue squad.
"The bite marks, where those two had bitten into
him," Cogdill said. "The furry stuff on his wrists and
ankles, where they had taped his arms and legs
together. . . ."
Cogdill was referring to the two people who killed
P.J.: Patrick Bourgeois, P.J.'s father, and Tracy
Lynn Bratton, Bourgeois' girlfriend.
Cogdill said that the pediatric emergency room staff
looked down at the child, who weighed 34 pounds,
and detected no signs of life. But they were going
to hope against hope -- they were going to try.
"I tried to put an IV in," Cogdill said. "I took his
arm -- his left arm -- and I saw one of the bite
marks, where they had gone into him with their
"I was trying to do my job, but I was thinking: I
want to see the people who did this.
"I knew he had been beaten. I knew he had been
tortured. You couldn't have been in that emergency
room and not have known that whoever had done
this to him had tortured him to death."
The two adults who did this to the 3-year-old boy
-- Bourgeois and Bratton -- are walking free now.
As we have been reporting, they never had a trial
-- they each pleaded guilty to involuntary
manslaughter, and then were released early from
prison by Franklin County Common Pleas Court
Judge Nodine Miller before they were even eligible
to ask to go before a parole board. Judge Miller let
them out early because she felt that what they did
when they killed P.J. "was fraught with ignorance,
immaturity and inexperience, more than
malevolence." No witnesses ever testified in court
about what had been done to the child.
In the emergency room the day P.J. was brought in
-- Feb. 28, 1996 -- Cogdill and what he estimates
as between 10 and 15 medical personnel --
"physicians, nurses, residents, paramedics" -- tried
to bring the boy back to life. But P.J. didn't have a
"The doctors finally called it," Cogdill said. "He was
dead. He had been down for a long time. One of
the doctors said it: `Stop.'"
The frenzied effort to save the boy was over, and
Cogdill said he could feel the emotion because
everyone in the room was so silent: "[P.J.] was
covered with a sheet up to his shoulders. We stood
there, and no one was saying anything."
Now, with Bourgeois and Bratton out on the
streets after their release from prison by Judge
Miller, Cogdill is enraged: "Letting the people out of
prison who killed the child in the way they killed
him . . . letting them out is an atrocious thing to do.
More than anything else, it is a slap in the face to
"What they did to him is the worst thing I have ever
seen in my life. They took his life away in the most
violent way you can imagine. Had they shot him in
the head, he would have suffered less. They made
sure that his death was slow and agonizing. I keep
asking myself what he was thinking after they beat
him and bit him and taped him up so he couldn't
move, and left him to die. He must have been
thinking: `Why am I going through this? Why are
they doing this to me?'"
Cogdill recalled leaving work that night, with the
sight of P.J. on the emergency room cot still in his
mind. "I live in London, Ohio, about a 30 minute
drive southwest from Columbus," he said. "On the
drive home, I just started crying. I couldn't help
myself. I was driving and I was crying, and I was
alone in the car. . . ."
He found himself wanting to know: What exactly
had the boy gone through? What had caused the
3-year-old to die?
Someone else was about to find the answer to
those questions. He was another person who has
never had the opportunity to testify in court about
the child's death: Dr. Patrick M. Fardal, forensic
pathologist with the Franklin County Coroner's
Office, who was assigned to perform the autopsy.
On Tuesday, we will report what Dr. Fardal
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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