Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2000 / 12 Tishrei 5761
'He wouldn't eat his
eggs, and we put him to
COLUMBUS, Ohio | "The initial story we got from
the father and the girlfriend was, `We don't know.
He wouldn't eat his eggs, and we put him to bed,
and in the morning he wouldn't get up. We don't
know what could have happened. Gee.'"
The man speaking was James McCoskey, a
homicide detective with the Columbus Police
Department. McCoskey was the lead investigator
in the killing of P.J. Bourgeois, the 3-year-old child
whose brutal death we have been reporting on. He
was explaining to us what happened when he and
fellow officers first interviewed Patrick Bourgeois,
the boy's father, and Tracy Lynn Bratton,
"They said they had no idea how the boy had died,"
McCoskey said. "Bourgeois told me that when his
son wouldn't eat his eggs, he sent him to bed for the
night, and that's all he knew."
The child had recently returned from Lewistown,
Pa., where he had visited his mother, from whom
Bourgeois was estranged, McCoskey said, and
Bourgeois had described the 3-year-old as "always
being sad and upset" when he was sent back and
forth for visits.
Detective McCoskey had been to the emergency
room of Children's Hospital in Columbus, where
P.J. had been pronounced dead. He had seen the
boy's battered body for himself -- and he had seen
the deep bite marks on the child, so severe that the
impressions of upper and lower teeth were as
distinct as if they had been professionally set in
So McCoskey said to Bourgeois: "You know, I
noticed some bite marks on the boy."
And Bourgeois, according to McCoskey, said:
"Oh, I forgot to tell you that. [P.J.] tried to bite my
finger, so I bit him back."
McCoskey, who has been a police officer for 28
years, decided not to say anything to Bourgeois
about his opinion of an adult who would sink his
teeth into a 3-year-old child who weighed 34
pounds. He just kept asking questions, and told
Bourgeois that he might want to talk more with him
Which he did. As we reported last week, forensic
pathologist Patrick M. Fardal of the Franklin
County coroner's office determined during the
autopsy of the child that P.J. had choked on his
own blood -- that he had been beaten, had
swallowed the blood and had essentially drowned
in it. The boy's wrists and legs appeared to have
been bound before he died.
So Detective McCoskey questioned Patrick
Bourgeois again. Did Bourgeois know anything
about why his son would have been bleeding?
"Bourgeois said that he had forgotten to mention
that he and his son had had `a little tiff,'" McCoskey
told us. "It seems that dad had backhanded the
boy, or so he said." (Dr. Fardal told us that the
child's injuries, which included a swollen and
bleeding brain, indicated that the boy had been
struck more than once.)
McCoskey and fellow investigators went back to
the mobile home where Bourgeois, Tracy Lynn
Bratton and P.J. had lived.
"Dad and the girlfriend had cleaned the place up,"
McCoskey told us. "But they had neglected to get
down on their knees and clean up low enough.
There were blood spatters near the floor -- on the
bottom of the refrigerator, and on the bottom of the
cabinets. They had thought they wiped up all the
boy's blood, but they had missed some."
(Ed Morgan, head of the criminal division of the
Franklin County prosecuting attorney's office, told
us: "They had bounced that boy all over the
"This wasn't adding up," McCoskey said. "He had
admitted that he had `gotten in a tiff' with the boy,
and had cleaned up the blood. But why would the
boy have drowned on his own blood? Dad had
been giving us this cock-and-bull story, and we
knew there had to be more to it."
So McCoskey told Bourgeois that the police knew
the boy had choked on his blood. Did Bourgeois
have any idea how that might have happened?
"Bourgeois said, `After we got in the little tiff, we
put the tape on him and put him on his bed,'"
McCoskey told us.
"I said, `The tape?'
"And he said they had done it before, to `keep the
boy still.' He said he and Tracy Bratton (who
would also admit biting the child) would tape P.J.'s
ankles together, and tape his wrists behind his
"That's how they left him that night -- lying on his
back, bleeding, taped so tightly that he could not
move his legs or arms. The boy is left alone tied up
and swallowing all this blood from where he was
beaten, and he can't move at all, and he chokes to
death on the blood."
Bourgeois and Bratton without question knew they
were responsible for killing the child, McCoskey
said; they tried to clean up the blood before
emergency workers arrived, and removed the tape
from the child and threw it away, to hide the
"We went back to the house and went through the
trash and there it was," McCoskey said. "The tape
from the boy's wrists and legs."
The police knew they had their case. The father
and, separately, the girlfriend had told them exactly
what they had done to the child that caused the
The police investigators turned their findings over to
the Franklin County prosecutor's office.
Which is where two key decisions were made that
eventually would lead the case to where it is today
-- with both killers free and out on the streets. We
will report on that
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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