David Bagby and his wife, Kate Bagby, have experienced a great deal of sorrow — the murders of their son, Andrew Bagby, and grandson, Zachary Turner.
With a provincial government bill concerning the death of children recently moving a step closer to becoming legislation, the Bagbys hope other families do not go through what they did.
“It’s good to see that the recommendations in the (Peter) Markesteyn report are being taken seriously,” David Bagby said when reached Wednesday at his home in California, in response to the passing of Bill 33 in the House of Assembly.
The bill, an act to amend the Fatalities Investigation Act, will lead to the formation of a Child Death Review Committee that will examine unexpected deaths involving youth under the age of 19 years.
It is hoped recommendations from those reviews will lead to measures that prevent such deaths from occurring.
Bill 33 was passed in its second reading at the House of Assembly on Monday and is now at the committee stage.
Creating such a committee was one of the recommendations included in the 2006 Turner Review and Investigation report prepared by Markesteyn and David Day.
Zachary Turner, 13 months, was killed in 2003 when his mother, Shirley Turner, took both their lives in a murder-suicide in Conception Bay South. Both drowned.
Turner was on bail awaiting extradition to the United States to face charges in the shooting death of Andrew Bagby, her ex-lover and Zachary’s father.
While David Bagby is pleased to hear the Child Death Review Committee is a step closer to becoming reality, he’s surprised it has taken so long to reach this point.
“Like everything related to the law, it’s always astounding to Kate and me how long it takes to do anything related to the law. It’s nine years since Zachary was murdered, and now there’s a bill to create a child death review. Why did that take so long?”
The justice minister and the child and youth advocate will receive copies of all committee reviews, and David Bagby hopes they are given careful consideration.
“Way back when (the government was) talking about doing our child death review, Saskatchewan, they told us, had done about 100 of these over the years.
“We thought about that a bit, and then we wondered, well, does anybody go back and look at those reviews and their recommendations … or do they just go on the shelf?”
David Bagby said he can see the logic in an amendment proposed by the opposition Liberals that would give the chief medical examiner the authority to instigate reviews concerning past cases of child deaths that fall into categories such as suicides or deaths linked to drug abuse.
“Why wait for the next one when you’ve already got some cases sitting there that haven’t been thoroughly investigated?” David Bagby said.
“In Zachary’s case, fortunately, it was very thoroughly investigated. The Markesteyn report, I don’t know how it could be improved.”
In 2007, David Bagby published a memoir about the deaths of his son and grandson, titled “Dance With the Devil.”
Zachary’s death later inspired Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Andrews to introduce legislation giving courts the right to refuse bail to people charged with serious offences on the grounds of protecting their children from harm. It became federal law in 2010.