Dear Zachary will re-air on MSNBC Sunday, January 4th at 11 pm EST
I'm Kurt, I made the film "Dear Zachary", currently showing on MSNBC. I'll be doing a live newsvine chat following the premiere broadcast on the east coast time slot (Sunday, 12/7 from 11 PM - Midnight EST), and will be happy to answer any questions anyone has about the film and the case to the best of my knowledge.
This film is an invitation to become part of its story and Kate & David Bagby's still unfolding quest for change; if you were affected by what you saw and want to do something about it, I urge you to write Canada's Parliament to express your feelings on this case, regardless of your citizenship. It's very easy: for help on how to do this, go to www.dearzachary.com and click on "Support Bail Reform". If you are a Canadian citizen, the page helps you find your Member of Parliament via your postal code. If you are not, the address for the Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada is there for your use. You will also find a questionnaire in the form of a downloadable Microsoft Word document that can either be filled out and sent directly, or used as a list that can give you things to think about as you compose a letter with your own words.
Thank you so much for taking the time to watch the film and for your interest in discussing this situation which is, as you know if you've watched the film, very important to me and the hundreds who loved Andrew and Zachary. More reviews and information can be found at www.dearzachary.com.
Some of the many moving exchanges from the following discussion:
(Most of the questions and answers address footage or people from the film, so if you haven't seen it, consider this your SPOILER WARNING.)
can kate & david file a civil suit upon the canadian court system-specificially the judges that allowed her out on probation??
They considered suing, but they didn't want Andrew & Zachary's names associated with money. (Nor do I, for that matter, which is why the proceeds from this film are going to the two scholarship funds in Andrew's memory.) The issue as we see it is not to go after specific individuals, but to change the system -- specifically, denying bail to people accused of murder pending a speedy and fair trial.
I'm trying to get as many people to watch this as possible. This doc affected me so deeply. I cried when I found out that Zachary was murdered. I thought all along that the movie was going to end with David and Kate enjoying full custody of their precious grandson. I was comforted by my husband as I cried tears of empathy for the Bagbys. [...] I would love to send the Bagbys a personal email, is there any way to do that?
Thanks so much for writing. It actually kind of surprises me that people don't immediately guess where the movie is going, because if Zachary was living I never would have released this project to the public. He would have had enough issues to sort out when he learned that his mother killed his father without his Uncle Kurt putting his private life all over the media.
So the only reason it is out publicly is because I felt it was my responsibility - as the only filmmaker friend Andrew had, and as someone who had been documenting this situation from the beginning, although for a very different reason - to tell this story publicly in hopes of preventing it from happening again.
If you'd like to send the Bagby's a personal email, you can send to me through the film's website and I'll forward it on to them.
I have a 22 year old daughter who has similar personality traits as Andrew. [...] I would like to purchase a DVD of "Dear Zachary" so she can view it. She now has a 5 month old daughter and we'd all be devastated if anything happened to either of them. I am in Memphis, TN. Has it been released here yet?
It played theatrically in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, but I don't know that it will be playing theatrically in Memphis any time soon (though it did play the Indie Memphis festival a few months back). "Dear Zachary" is being released on DVD on February 10th; I believe you can pre-order it on Amazon.com...if not presently, you'll be able to soon.
Was anyone ever charged with any criminal negligence?
I always wondered if the doctor who posted her bail was sleeping with her. Did he ever get his license back? I hope not.
In answer to your question, no - no one was ever charged with criminal negligence. And Dr. Doucet never lost his license; he was found guilty of professional misconduct and had to pay $10,000 to cover the cost of the hearing and undergo psychiatric counseling. I know that he left Newfoundland and relocated to another province, but that's the extent of my knowledge.
How did you manage to finish this documentary Kurt? What a moving piece of film.
I saw it as my responsibility; this was never intended for public release when I first began the project. It was only a personal project for family, friends, Zachary and the recipients of Andrew's scholarship funds (to whom the proceeds of this film are going).
But when Zachary was killed, after I picked myself up off the floor, I felt I had a responsibility as the only individual who had been documenting this situation since it started - indeed, I had been documenting this FAMILY my whole life without knowing it - that it was my responsibility to speak out for Andrew & Zachary and turn this into a project that would be accessible to the public, that would hopefully make the viewer feel what we went through -- and realize that it's too horrible to let it happen again.
Tim-572578 returns and asks:
You didn't spend much time covering this, but why didn't the Pa. or Iowa police arrest her? I know you said they were finishing tracking her cell calls, but why wouldn't they have at least had her surrender her passport? There seemed to have been enough probable cause and they knew she had duel citizenship. I'm not a lawyer or police officer, but I personally think they blew it. I know; hindsight is always 20/20.
Also, didn't an american lawyer reccomend that she flee to Canada? Did he get in any trouble for this advice? He is as much responsible for this injustice if he did, in fact, tell her to run.
The PA police could not arrest her without an arrest warrant. They could not get an arrest warrant without probable cause. And until the cell phone records came in, they couldn't place her at the scene definitively, so they couldn't seize her passports (she had two - U.S. and Canada, because of her dual citizenship). So I don't fault the PA authorities at all, they were moving as fast as they could within the law.
In 2001, it took two weeks to go to each individual cell tower to get the records definitively. I just saw the D.A. in PA's Westmoreland County at a screening a couple of weeks ago, and was told that with the techonological advances of the last seven years, that process can now be done in 2 hours. Progress comes too late for Zachary...but in the future that will no longer be a roadblock.
As far as I'm aware, the American lawyer's official story is that he/she (I can't remember the gender) told Shirley to go to Canada to get emotional support from family after Andrew's death. (At the time that advice was given, Shirley hadn't yet been charged.) So, given that that was cited as the reason, there's no way one can get in trouble for giving that advice.
Gary Snyder asks:
Once Shirley crossed the border leaving the country, what was happening, if anything, here in in America regarding the work on proving her the murderer of Andrew?
Thanks so much for tuning in. The U.S. authorities weren't able to charge Shirley until after she had already fled the country. The D.A. in Westmoreland County asked the State Department in Washington, D.C. to ask the Canadian Federal Government to ask the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador to extradite her. Once the State Department submits its request for extradition & supporting documentation, they have no more input -- it's entirely under Canadian control, so all they could was wait, make pressuring phone calls and be available for consultation.
I spoke with the Westmoreland County D.A. at a screening a couple of weeks ago and he told me that every time he called there to put pressure on them, he got a somewhat annoyed reaction from across the border that he would question how they were doing their job. At least, that is my recollection of his experience as told to me.
Thank you so much for writing and asking a very good question.
I would like to know if the Canadian version of our Supreme Court would have any punishments for the female judge that released that wicked witch on bail, such as disbarring her?
Is there any funding set up [for the Bagbys] to assist them with their legal costs?
Thanks so much for watching the film and for your kind words. Judges don't have to answer to anyone but higher courts for their decisions, so no, there has been no action against either Justices Russell or Welsh for releasing her on bail -- and technically, within the law, they did nothing wrong, as they did what they are allowed to do legally...interpret the law to release a probable pre-meditated murderer on bail.
That is why it is much more useful to look at the system as the problem as opposed to the individuals. If the law is changed - to deny bail to people accused of murder pending a speedy and fair trial - individuals like Russell and Welsh won't be able to endanger lives by making such decisions. If you go to my film's website and click on "Support Bail Reform" you will find information on whom to write to.
Your offer of financial assistance is very sweet, and if you would like to donate to anything, I encourage you to donate to either of the scholarship funds established in Andrew's memory, which assist medical students pursuing his specialty of family medicine (which is where all the proceeds for this film are going). Once again, go to my film's website (listed above) and click on "Donate".
Do you think the Canadian justice system was lenient with Shirley, and if so, was it because she was a woman, or because she was a successful manipulator, or both ? I'm very interested because I'm working on a book about a somewhat similar sitiation also adjudicated in Canada, where, in my opinion, a woman was found less culpable than her male partner based on both her gender and her manipulative skills---you may be familiar with it, the 1993 murder case involving Karla Homolka.
Shirley was a very good manipulator, there is no doubt, but I think the fact that she was a woman, a doctor, tiny and pregnant did indeed play a factor in the naive treatment of her by the legal system. Which is why, after considering this case for many years, I'm in favor of denying bail to people accused of murder pending a speedy and fair trial, because a manipulator only shows you what they want you to see; they'll behave as best they can in order to get what they want.
Therefore, you have to look at the facts of what they are accused of doing, and the air-tight nature of the evidence collected. (The Pennsylvania D.A. in charge of this case told me he'd rarely seen such an air-tight case in all his years and couldn't believe she was being allowed to walk free in Canada.) You can't use the looks and/or gender of the person as any indication of the kind of monster you may be dealing with. That's just my opinion.
Indeed, I am familiar with the Karla Homolka case, Andrew's father David (whom you saw in the movie) has introduced me to many such cases, which he became very familiar with while researching his book "Dance with the Devil".
Aimehio Iyeke asks:
Thank you for making this documentary. It broke my heart. My question is, Was there ever a morning when you were on your way to interveiw one of Andrews fellow loved ones and you just thought " this is painful" ? snf if so, how did you work through the pain?
Actually, shooting this project was the most fun I've ever had making a movie because I was travelling all over, meeting wonderful people and hearing stories about Andrew, so the shooting of it was very pleasurable and very healing. At the time I was making this film, I wasn't making a "documentary" about the case, I was memorializing Andrew for Zachary, family and friends; I never intended to release the film publicly. It was hell living through what the government of Canada was allowing Shirley to put Andrew's parents through, but it was the process of living through it that was tough, not documenting it (because at the time, I wasn't documenting it).
So it was really wonderful to feel like I was doing something tremendously valuable, gathering Andrew's history for Zachary to see when he was old enough. Once my film's audience was murdered, I put the project away for a year because I wasn't even sure what I was doing anymore. But when Kate & David started speaking out for change, I realized that there was something useful I could do, which is turn this into a film that would be accessible to the general public, which is what I usually do in my professional life.
I cried every day while editing it, but the sense of having a purpose - that this film would hopefully create positive change in the world, as well as be a wonderful healing gift for Kate & David - kept me going.
Beth Gladston asks:
Please E-mail me the name of the beer that his friends just shared. Was it Foldgers3 something?
The beer is Fuller's ESB, it's an English beer. (Andrew had a large English heritage as you can see from the film.)
I think the story of Andrew, Kate, David and Zachary is a story of love and how it is impossible to kill it. I suppose that sounds rather corny, but it is what it is.
You know, sitting here, I can't even remember the name of the monster who killed Andrew and Zachary. There is a part of me that has a shred of compassion for her, as I know she was sick. But I also know how the system fails those who suffer from the wrath of other peoples sickness.
That makes me very happy to hear that you remembered Andrew, Kate, David & Zachary's names, but not the murderer. In my personal opinion, our media gives far too much attention to killers and their thought processes. It makes me fairly ill that so many people can name killers by name, but no one knows the names of their victims. I had hoped that this film might begin to even up the score a bit, by being one of the first crime documentaries made from the point of view of the victim, where you came away remembering the life force that was taken, not the cloud that took it.
Gretchen P asks:
Do you have children of your own and what about Shirley's other children?
Thanks so much for writing, Gretchen. I do not have children of my own at this time in my life, which is perhaps why I was able to emotionally get through the making and editing of this movie in its final form. (Though I do recall that while editing, I would take a lunch break and go over to a friend's house, see his 3 year old son and just about come apart...if that makes any sense.)
Shirley's other children were left with a horrible burden, and while I haven't kept close contact with them - the only one I have had contact with in the last 5 years is her son TJ, who you saw toward the end of the film. But I wish them absolutely all the best in dealing with a burden that no child should ever have to carry. They are innocent victims in this too. And I do hope that, if this movie helps cause some kind of change to the system, that it will honor the memory of their little brother.
Terri Sinclair writes:
First as a filmmaker the piece is brilliant. Moving and well edited you took a complicated story and in the course of two hours changed my world. My accidental viewing of the film was a stroke of good luck. I feel I knew Andrew in ways I don't even know my "best" friends. Heartbreaking story. Just heartbreaking.
I lost my best friend years ago in a murder suicide. I know what a tragic unjust loss feels like.
I want to return to the film but had to take a moment out to thank you. I can see what is coming for Zach and I'm not sure I can even watch it in one sitting.
I was a CASA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. We are the voice of the child in the court system. I wish Zachary had a CASA on his case. I feel the outcome would have been much different.
First off, I'm so sorry for the loss of your best friend. That's horrible.
Secondly, thank you for everything you're doing on behalf of abused and neglected children. We need more people like you there doing what you do. Andrew's mother Kate has now become a Child Advocate as well, and indeed, I agree fully that things might have been very different had he had a court appointed advocate. Kate & David were the only ones looking after his interests, and they had no power to be heard.
The point of my film, however, is that in this particular case, child protection would not even have been an issue if this probable accused pre-meditated first degree murderer had not been allowed to walk free on bail while awaiting trial in the first place. It wasn't just Zachary whose life was in danger. Andrew's ex-fiance feared for her life every day that Shirley was walking the streets, and with good reason. She received creepy phone calls, emails, Shirley even showed up on her doorstep at 1:30 in the morning.
Other med school classmates of Andrew's received phone calls from her that they deemed to be of a threatening nature and feared for their family's safety. The ones most concerned filed do not contact/restraining orders against her, but those are meaningless to a murderer. The last man she dated in Newfoundland was in grave danger as well, and it almost cost him his life too. The government was gambling the lives of everyone who came in contact with her, Zachary was the most vulnerable, easy target and he lost that gamble.
People are not charged with murder randomly; a team of professionals puts an enormous amount of time and effort into gathering evidence and determining probable cause. The statistics of one study I looked at in Canada showed that 85% of those charged with murder were found to have actually done it (I believe it was 77% guilty, 8% not guilty by reason of insanity - but they did it).
Being charged doesn't mean they're guilty, but that's a very high accuracy factor and a very high risk factor, and given the severity (and irreversibility) of the crime with which they are charged, it does not - in my opinion - make any sense to let someone with that kind of a charge on their head walk free until a jury has had their say. (And the speed to trial can be helped along great by the accused; in this case, Turner and her lawyer did everything they could to drag it out and slow it down.) That is my opinion after having lived through this experience, and this movie is my best attempt at sharing that experience with you.
Was Shirley ever formally diagnosed?
Dr. John Doucet was her personal psychiatrist during the period when she was wanted for murder in the U.S. and fled to Newfoundland. I don't know what his diagnosis was of her - I don't believe anything in their sessions was made or necessarily could be made public. But he did sign for $65,000 bail for her the first time she was released on bail, on December 12, 2001. He was later found guilty of professional misconduct for doing so, as you saw in the film.
But there was no formal evaluation ever done of her to my knowledge -- and even if there had been, she probably would have passed with flying colors, as manipulators know exactly how to behave to show others what they need to show them in order to get what they want. There was some talk at one point of doing a "psychological autopsy" after the fact, but I don't believe that it has ever been done.
If you'd like to know more, the entire Turner Review & Investigation - released on October 4, 2006 and shown toward the end of my film - is available in pdf form on my film's website.
what was the most difficult part for you in making the film?
Making the film was actually a very enjoyable experience because, in the shooting of it, I was driving around the country meeting really cool people from Andrew's life [...] I discovered that the editing was also a chiefly enjoyable experience (though I did cry every day) because once all of the footage was in my computer, it was like getting to hang out with Andrew, Zachary and their whole group of family & friends every day.
The hardest part, honestly, has been touring with the movie at film festivals. Because when you go to a festival as a filmmaker, they have gatherings for all the filmmakers. And normally, that's a wonderful experience, and it was great meeting all these other interesting and talented people. But 40 times during the space of one evening, you will be asked, "What's your movie about?"
And over & over, lest I be thought rude, I'd have to tell this story - the most horrifying thing that's ever happened to me - and by the end of the evening, I'd feel awful, furious and angry with myself for having turned this sacred event in my life into a cocktail anecdote, if that makes any sense. But by the very nature of releasing this movie publicly - which I saw as my responsibility - I've put myself in a position to be asked that question, so I can't complain about it. But that has been the most difficult part for me.
Also, sitting through the 25 hours of phone call recordings between Andrew's folks & Shirley was the least fun part of editing. But it had to be done.
WHAT A REMARKABLE FRIEND YOU ARE! HOW ARE DAVID AND KATE TODAY? DID MAKING THIS REMARKABLE FILM BRING ANY PEACE TO YOU?
Thank you. Making this film has been a rewarding experience because at least I feel that there is something I can do to be useful in trying to improve the world, to prevent this from happening again.
Whether it has brought peace? That I'm not so sure, I'd have to get back to you on that.
I'll have more peace if they change the bail law that allowed this to happen. My favorite part of this whole process has probably been at film festivals, right after the screenings end, seeing the standing ovation that the audience gives to Kate & David when they step up to the front of the room -- and then seeing the line of people waiting to hug them after the show. It's nice to feel that, even though I can't bring Andrew & Zachary back except on film/video, I'm able to bring more affection into their lives from strangers, who sometimes become new friends.
A question that I have is did Kate and Dave have overwhelming concern that Shirley could possibly take Zachary's life?
Kate and David were concerned from the very beginning that Shirley might take Zachary's life, yes. That's why they had their lawyer go directly to Betty Day, the head of Child, Youth & Family Services at the time, to express concern about the safety of the baby because of the first degree murder charge against the mother. And CYFS did nothing to intervene, Kate & David were completely ignored. Because Canada was allowing this accused murderer to walk free, we all knew it was a possibility in the back of our minds, but there was nothing legal they could do to save Zachary.
jeff vaquera asks:
I wanted to ask, what moment you found to be most profound while you were in the midst of filming and what you first felt after you finally finished editing
A few moments during the shooting felt really profound: the moment when Dr. Bill DiCuccio and I split Andrew's last beer; the moment when the park ranger at Keystone Park showed me where he found Andrew's body, walked me through his steps that morning, and I suddenly couldn't wait to get out of there and never come back; the moment when I realized I was photographing Zachary playing right below an urn of his father's ashes, the little guy having no idea what it was; the moment when, after arriving in Newfoundland, Andrew's ex-fiance saw my ice chest stuffed full of mini-DV videotapes of interviews with Andrew's friends and burst into tears saying, "It's like an urn -- of everyone's memories"; the moment when Kate had her accident (which rendered her unable to accompany us to the release of the Child Death Review in 2006), and my enthusiasm for finishing the film dwindled at the thought that she might never get to see it -- which was the moment that I realized I was really finishing this movie for Kate & David, and when I suddenly realized how I would be ending the film.
When I finally finished the final cut of the movie, I didn't really have a sense of completion, since I was frantic and exhausted, racing to meet the deadlines for Sundance and Slamdance...and then I kept wondering if I was really done. You're never really done until it's in front of an audience -- and even then, various distributors always need your to create new formats for different arenas. So that's a hard one to pin down...
Is there anywhere that donations can be made in Andrew or Zachary's memory?
Yes, indeed. Two scholarship funds were established in Andrew's memory to assist medical students pursuing his specialty of family practice. They are:
The Dr. Andrew David Bagby Family Medicine Scholarship
Checks should be made out to/sent to:
Latrobe Area Hospital Charitable Foundation
(Important: "Memo" line on check to read: Dr. Bagby Scholarship)
c/o Latrobe Area Hospital
121 West Second Avenue
Latrobe, PA 15650-9905
The Dr. Andrew Bagby and son Zachary Bursary Fund
Checks should be made out to:
Memorial University of Newfoundland
(Important: "Memo" line on check to read: Dr. Bagby Scholarship)
and sent to:
Student Affairs Office
Faculty of Medicine
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Health Sciences Center
300 Prince Philip Drive
St. John's, NL A1B 3V6