Key witness at Ferguson hearing admits he lied
A key witness at Ryan Fergusonâ??s evidentiary hearing testified that he blacked out on the night of Kent Heitholtâ??s murder.
Chuck Erickson said he canâ??t remember any details of the 2001 murder scene even though he gave detailed information to police investigators before, during and after Fergusonâ??s murder trial.
Ferguson is serving a 40-year sentence for second-degree murder and robbery in the strangling death of Columbia Daily Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt in the newspaper's parking lot.
Ferguson hopes to get a new trial after convincing a judge to allow new evidence during a week long hearing at the Cole County Courthouse.
Erickson testified that he was so drunk and so high on cocaine that he doesnâ??t remember anything from the night of Heitholtâ??s murder. Erickson said nearly everything he told police investigators was a lie. Erickson cut a deal with prosecutors. He is serving 25 years in prison in exchange for testimony against Ferguson. Erickson put that deal in danger and could face charges of perjury now that he testified that he canâ??t remember if he and Ferguson killed Heitholt. Erickson said he made up the story because witness Jerry Trump said he saw Ferguson and Erickson at the crime scene.
Erickson said, â??I knew that Jerry Trump put me at the murder scene. I didnâ??t know if he was telling the truth or not. If someone puts you at the murder scene, thatâ??s pretty much a done deal.â??
Prosecutors began their cross examination of Erickson by having him read a letter that he wrote to the victimâ??s daughter Kali Heitholt. Prosecutors say Ericksonâ??s written apology was an admission of guilt. Erickson said his letter of lies was a way to offer closure to the Heitholt family.
Erickson said, â??I still donâ??t know if I did it or not. It looked like I did it. I lied about what I remembered. If I did kill Kent Heitholt, Iâ??m sincerely sorry for it. I know that I caused a whole lot more pain dragging this out and not telling the truth to begin with.â??
Ferguson was convicted of murder nearly 7 years ago and is not expected to testify during his hearing for a new trial.
Erickson testified former Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane pressured him into testifying against Ferguson. Crane, who is now a judge, is scheduled to take the stand on Friday.
Fergusonâ??s evidentiary hearing is expected to wrap up on Friday.
A crew from the CBS News Program 48 Hours is in Jefferson City this week covering the hearing.