Andrew Bagby was shot and killed by a spurned girlfriend, Shirley Jane Turner. After killing him, Turner discovered she was pregnant with his son, Zachary. After Zachary was born, Andrew's parents fought to get custody of Zachary. Andrew's friend, Kurt Kuenne, grew up with him and included Bagby in many of his home movies as a kid. Kuenne wanted to use these film clips to assemble a film biography of Andrew for his son, Zachary. However, he ended up documenting the court battle and its outcome as well.
The story of the fight by Andrew's parents to get custody of their grandson is a tragic one. It is a story of a sociopath, Shirley Jane Turner, manipulating the criminal justice system to her own ends. It's heart breaking and infuriating to watch. We would like to think it's fiction. Unfortunately, it's not.
You can read more about the film at the official "Dear Zachary" website.
I will not tell you the spoiler, and there is a huge one. If you want to read the entire story, spoiler included, please see Wikipedia's article on the film.
It's ironic that a reader brought up this film at this time because I'm dealing with a sociopath of my own. I'm currently involved in a child custody case with a 7 year old child who has reported physical, sexual and emotional abuse by his biological father. The criminal system refuses to prosecute because there is no physical evidence. (The child could not tell his mother what happened for almost 3 months. By that time all physical evidence had healed.) The family court system refuses to block the father's access to the child or to require supervised visits. And the father is putting a spin on the entire situation that is blowing everyone's mind. He portrays his son as a manipulating liar and the mother as a vicious ex-wife who are working together to deny him his visitation rights. He is smooth and charming. He goes behind the mother's back and manipulates and spins his story - to doctors and therapists treating his son, to hospital staff, to court officials. He has so confused treating mental health professionals that the boy's current psychiatrist has resigned from the case and refuses to continue treating him because he is "too confused by what the parents are saying." As the mother fights to protect her son from his father the court system has haggled back and forth over the rights of the parents. When she asked an examining court psychologist, "what about the rights of the child?" she was told that children have no rights. Only parents have rights. And this is the card the father plays to the hilt. He maintains he has a right to have access to his son. So this child is being sent back to visit his father, with no supervision.
Children have no rights? This was news to me. I never realized that children had no rights. I'm reminded once again of a saying I once heard, "Americans care more about waging war than about caring for their children".
I wish I could say this was untrue...