Accomplice says Ryan Ferguson not guilty of murder
Mon, 08 Feb 2010 23:55:02 GMT —
Update 11:00 p.m.:
We are learning more about new evidence that could affect the appeal by convicted killer Ryan Ferguson. Ferguson and Charles Erickson were 17 year-old high school students at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia when Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt was strangled in the newspaper's parking lot November 1, 2001.
Both were convicted of murder, but Ferguson has always maintained his innocence. His family even set up a web site devoted to his case.
Monday an appeal for his freedom moved forward. Court documents filed with the Western District Court of Appeals include paperwork and a video-taped deposition from Erickson made last November from the state prison in Potosi.
In it, Erickson says, "I made up what I said about Ryan being on top of the victim." Later he admits, "I lied about him strangling the victim." Erickson says he was solely responsible for the robbery and death of Heitholt and says it took so long to come out with this version of the events because he couldn't believe he could have acted so aggressively. He says he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the murder.
Ferguson's father Bill Ferguson says he's not surprised Erickson came forward to take responsibility for the killing. He always thought," sooner or later he's going to wake up in his cell and say 'Oh my gosh, what have I done,' and it sounds like that may be the case."
The deposition was given to Ferguson's attorney's after Erickson sent Ferguson a hand-written letter. In it, Erickson asks Ferguson to have his lawyers contact Erickson. The new statements by Erickson put him at risk of losing his deal with prosecutors if he committed perjury during Ferguson's 2005 trial.
Erickson's statements do place Ferguson at the crime scene, but defense attorneys argue they don't show Ferguson was guilty of robbery, a fact the prosecution had to prove to get the conviction on felony murder charges.
With the plea deal, Erickson got 25 years in prison. Ferguson is serving 40 years.
The family of convicted killer Ryan Ferguson thinks their son is one step closer to a new trial and eventually his freedom.
A motion is filed at the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District for a new trial at the circuit court level.
Ferguson and Charles Erickson were convicted of killing Columbia Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt in 2001.
Years after the crime Erickson said he rremembered the killing in a dream, confessed and testified against Ferguson.
Ferguson TMs father said he hasn't seen the documents filed today, but expected them to contain a video of Erickson in prison, recanting the testimony against Ferguson.