Three years old, with baby fat still puffing out his cheeks, the boy in the video grins up at the dreadlocked woman towering over him and asking his name. "Chis-ching!" he blurts.
"That my ba-aaaaby!" cries Theda Thomas, sliding toward the edge of her seat.
On this winter evening, Thomas, a substitute teacher for the St. Louis Public Schools, is reliving scenes from the mid-1990s, when she was the young mother of two toddler sons. To accomplish this feat, she has hooked up a five-inch television to an old VCR on the dining-room table in her childhood home. "Look at his beautiful face," she says softly. "I want to kiss him."
Those are the opening paragraphs of "Vanishing Act," the first part of a Riverfront Times investigation into the disappearance of nine-year-old Christian Ferguson, a story reported on and written by Kristen Hinman in this week's edition of the RFT.
Thomas showed Hinman hours of video to give her a glimpse of her child, who went missing six years ago. Here are clips of that video: