Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2000 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan 5761
'It makes you feel that you are
COLUMBUS, Ohio | "More than anything else,
this is an insult to the boy they killed. It tells the
whole world that his life didn't matter."
The person speaking is Mike Cogdill, a
paramedic who was working in the Children's
Hospital emergency room on the day that
3-year-old P.J. Bourgeois was brought in.
Earlier in this series of reports, you heard Cogdill's voice describing the
terrible injuries the child's killers -- his father, Patrick Bourgeois, and
Bourgeois' girlfriend, Tracy Lynn Bratton -- had inflicted on the 34-pound
As we search for answers now -- as we struggle to find, from what P.J.
endured, lessons to help prevent such crimes and courthouse injustices in the
future -- it is probably best to begin with Cogdill's idea of what the primary
lesson is: that the early release of P.J.'s killers from prison is an insult not just
to his memory, but an affront to the very concept of justice for voiceless and
"Letting [the killers] go is an atrocious thing," Cogdill said. "It is the ultimate
"Did [Patrick Bourgeois] pass some school courses in prison? Too bad. P.J.
never got to go to a day of school, because those two killed him."
James McCoskey, the Columbus Police Department homicide detective who
led the investigation of P.J.'s killing, said that Judge Miller's order releasing
the boy's killers before they even would have been eligible for a parole
hearing sends a very clear message about what they did to the boy:
"That it's no big deal," McCoskey told us. "That's the message from this case
-- that you can do this to a child, and it's no big deal."
Dr. Brian Seifferth, now the medical director of the emergency department at
Union County Memorial Hospital in Marysville, Ohio, and formerly a doctor
at Children's Hospital in Columbus and with the Franklin County coroner's
office, told us, "The boy was tortured. There is no question at all about that. I
can't imagine why someone would let the people who did this to him out of
"It sends the message from the courthouse that something like this really
doesn't matter. That there are no real repercussions. That the life of this child
was not as valuable as the lives of the people who tortured and killed him.
"It's more than just disgusting. It makes you feel that you are absolutely
powerless. They did this to the boy, and they're let out, and there's not a thing
you can do."
Mike Bates, the paramedic who tried to revive P.J. after Bourgeois and
Bratton had first locked Bates and fellow rescue workers out of the mobile
home where the boy's body lay on the floor, told us: "The lesson of this is that
the courts don't consider this a real murder. If [Bourgeois and Bratton] had
done this to an adult, they'd still be in prison. You would think it would be just
the opposite -- because a child doesn't have a chance to fight back, you'd
think the courts would understand that this is even worse than if it was done
to an adult.
"I believe that to let these two out of prison early after what they did is a
crime in itself."
Linda Manley, the registered nurse who was emergency medical services
coordinator at Children's Hospital on the day P.J. was brought in, said: "The
message is: If you kill a child, you will have less of a consequence than if you
had killed someone older. This was a murder, and everyone familiar with the
case knows it. What an insult to that child this has been -- and what a signal
Tomorrow, we will report on an Ohio legislator who has worked to try to
make sure that no judge will ever again have the option of allowing child
killers to walk out of prison early the way Bourgeois and Bratton did.
But the final words -- and thoughts -- today should be not of the legal system,
but of P.J. Bourgeois himself. And the words should come from someone
who tried to save the boy. Paramedic Mike Cogdill:
"They took his life away in the most violent way. . . . 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? Why
won't they help me? What have I done wrong?'
"But he can't ask us anything. And they're
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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