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Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2000 / 7 Tishrei 5761

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports

'Had they shot him in the head, he would have suffered less' -- 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 teeth.

"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 chance.

"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 P.J.

"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 learned.

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


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