If you’ve seen Dear Zachary, you’ll already know of the harrowing case that is contained within this book. I haven’t seen the film but was gifted this, and can now safely say that I will continue to avoid the film for fear of crying myself into a dessicated shell of my former self.
Dance With the Devil is the memoir of David Bagby, father to Andrew and grandfather to Zachary, whose lives were both cruelly stolen by Dr Shirley Turner. It’s a howl of grief, a devastating memoir of the effects of their loss on David and his wife, and an impassioned plea for reform in the parole laws that allowed Dr Turner to remain at liberty as she awaited extradition to the United States from Canada (where she’d fled following the murder of Andrew) and end the life of her baby son.
If you don’t know anything about this case, I’ll lay it out a little here. Andrew Bagby was a promising young doctor who became involved with Dr Turner, a chronic liar who possessed alarmingly obsessive and stalkerish tendencies. Andrew had been trying without success to extricate himself from their relationship for some time when he arranged to meet her in the quiet park where his body was later found, and Dr Turner almost immediately found herself the main suspect thanks to her constant lies and evidence that she was indeed with Andrew – rather than states away as she claimed – at the time of his death. Doing what every innocent person does and immediately fleeing to Canada, Dr Turner then announced that she was pregnant with Andrew’s child.
Reeling with grief, and having moved to Canada in order to better pursue Dr Turner’s extradition, Andrew’s parents then did something I would never have the grace to do: continue to communicate with Shirley and try to play nice with their son’s murderer in their efforts to have a relationship with the son, Zachary, that he never knew. Tragically, despite the Canadian courts eventually agreeing that Shirley should indeed be extradited for Andrew’s murder, they also allowed her to remain at liberty whilst on bail, a decision which would lead to Zachary’s death by his mother’s hand.
David Bagby writes simply and clearly, laying out the tortuous legal wrangling in a way that made it easy to follow, whilst documenting the terrible grief experienced by he and his wife as first their son and then their grandson fell victim to Dr Turner. He’s very clear that his aim in writing the book was in order to change the Canadian law that allows suspected murderers to be free on bail (without anyone having had to put up any bail money – or even be capable of doing so should the parolee break the terms of bail). Whether or not David Bagby accomplishes this goal, I can safely say that I will never forget his family’s story, or how they were so truly let down by the justice system.