Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Gut-wrenching documentary about Dr. Andrew Bagby, a resident in family practice in Latrobe, Pennsylvania who is shot to death by Shirley Turner, his unstable girlfriend.  Soon after his murder, it is discovered that she is pregnant with his unborn child.  This document would then serve as a memorial honoring the father little Zachary never knew.  At first this record suggests a home movie made to commentate a loved one, something very intimate to be shared only with close relatives. Haphazard and awkwardly constructed, the amateurish style actually contributes to its immediacy.  Many relatives, friends, and associates attest to their love and admiration for Andrew and support for his parents, David and Kathleen.  There is hope within this loving and dedicated group.  Although it includes numerous testimonials, it becomes much more than a tribute.  The memoir soon shifts focus from Andrew to his parents as they seek to gain custody of grandson Zachary, from the woman they suspected of killing their son.  As we are further drawn into the Bagby’s world, we sympathize with their terrible plight and share in their cause. The intestinal fortitude shown by Bagby’s parents is unbelievable.  They display a strength of character I doubt few people could muster in the midst of such despair.  It’s admirable.  My heart goes out to them and I was touched by the devotion they had for their grandson.

Ultimately, I think what makes the account so difficult to endure is what happens next could have been prevented.  Because Shirley fled from the United States to Newfoundland before she was charged, the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts first to extradite her so she can face a U.S. trial.  To reveal anything more would be to rob the documentary of its power, but it highlights extreme failures of the legal system, instilling an utter hatred for the process.  No evidence is ever given to explain the outrageous miscarriage of justice that occurred.  We understand WHAT happened, but not WHY.  Director Kurt Kuenne wants you to experience the same pain the parents feel and it hurts.  It would have helped if psychiatrist Dr. John Doucet and Justice Gale Welsh, both from Newfoundland, had agreed to be interviewed.  It is not surprising they declined, but their behavior is so mind numbingly egregious, it screams for an explanation.  How could they have behaved the manner in which they did?  Their conduct is quite simply, infuriating.  By the end of the film, you will be filled with grief and anger.  The disturbing resolution will haunt you for days.

4 Responses to “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”

  1. I’ve been meaning to watch this. Someone else recommended it to me a few weeks back. Couldn’t find it ANYWHERE so I downloaded it. Will watch soon!


    • It’s not the kind of film you will “enjoy”. It’s too sad for that, but it is powerful. It also will make you furious with the legal system…especially in Canada!


  2. Actually, here in Mexico we have that type of film, too. Came out a few weeks ago, and has faced censorship attempts and all sorts of trouble. Infuriating and very moving. It’s called Presunto Culpable.


  3. This movie made me so mad. I was sad, then hopeful, then sad again. I have a hard time saying I liked the movie, because it affected me so much. The actions of certain people involved was shocking. I admire the strength of the parents. Tough movie to watch


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