This one isn’t random news, it’s mainstream. But it’s the most compelling ongoing story I know of. It should definitely get more attention from the public.
In October 2005, Ryan Ferguson was convicted of murdering Kent Heitholt, an editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune. Heitholt was murdered in 2001, when Ferguson was only 17 years old. The reason for his conviction? His former buddy, Chuck Erickson, decided one day two years after the murder that he and Ferguson must have done it. Erickson’s confession lacked new information, except what the police told him during interrogation. His mental health has been questioned. He told friends he dreamed that he committed the murder. Several elements of his story don’t check out. Ferguson has always maintained his innocence.
I first learned about Ferguson and Erickson last March when I was a reporter for the public safety beat at the Columbia Missourian. I did a story with another reporter, Ryan Neal, about Ferguson’s appeal for retrial. We sifted through an 86-page court document claiming that Ferguson’s original attorneys were ineffective. The list of mistakes and contradictions was endless.
Whether the court system is trustworthy or not, one thing is for sure, it’s slow. Here’s a quick timeline.
- 2001-Kent Heitholt is murdered.
- 2003- Erickson goes to police after telling friends he dreamed about committing the murder. He had recently read a story about the anniversary of the unsolved murder in the newspaper.
- 2005- First trials. Erickson is convicted first, then Ferguson. Ferguson, barely 21 years old, is sentenced to 40 years in prison.
- 2007- The Missouri Supreme Court refuses to hear Ferguson’s appeal for retrial.
- 2008- Hearings to examine Ferguson’s motion for retrial drag on. Will it ever end?
There’s so much more info. If you’re interested in this case at all, check out these sources.
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