By Bill Bryan and Jeremy Kohler Post-Dispatch
updated: 06/13/2003 12:16 PM

A lawyer for the father of a missing disabled boy said today that investigators had been hired to help find the child.

John Rogers, a lawyer for Dawan Fergsuon, said in a press conference Friday morning that he has hired investigators to follow up on the "few leads" available in the disappearance of Christian Ferguson, 9. He declined to discuss details.

Rogers said he is in continual touch with Ferguson. Asked why Ferguson was not present, Rogers said he did not want his client subjected to the kind of questions reporters would ask.

"It's doubtful that he's still alive," St. Louis Police Capt. Harry Hegger said as the day dragged on without news. Hegger heads the investigation into Dawan Ferguson's report that someone drove off with his parked SUV about 6 a.m. Wednesday with his son Christian in it.

Searchers were hampered by having no idea where to look. Police had checked the area in Ferguson without success immediately after the SUV turned up. Officers continued the hunt Thursday from two helicopters.

Christian is ill with a rare disorder called argininosuccinate synthetase deficiency, which inhibits his ability to process protein. It has long since robbed him of the ability to communicate or take care of himself.

Alexsis Johnson, 14, who lives on Ronbar Lane in Ferguson, where the SUV was found, told a reporter she saw it parked there between 6 and 6:10 a.m. Wednesday, about the same time Dawan Ferguson said it was being stolen about five miles away.

Johnson said she's sure of the time because she and her mother leave on schedule each morning to take her mother's boyfriend to work.

Detectives are not calling Dawan Ferguson a suspect in the disappearance, but police sources said he declined to take a polygraph and cut short interviews Wednesday after asking for a lawyer.

Police said he had inconsistencies in his story about driving the boy to the hospital. For example, investigators said they could not understand why he would stop to use a pay phone when he was carrying a cell phone.

The Wilsons said volunteers will be needed for today's search beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Marvin Park United Methodist Church, 9355 St. Charles Rock Road in St. John.

Christian's family set up two funds to receive financial help.

Donations to help pay the costs of searching can be made to Christian T. Ferguson Special Fund, Union Planters Bank, 10449 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Louis, Mo., 63114 or by calling 314-426-6900.

The family has collected $1,000 toward a reward for information leading to the safe return of Christian. Further donations to the fund can be made to the Christian Reward Fund, Bank of America, 944 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63114 or by calling 314-284-1106.

Donald E. Franklin of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.