Published On: Wed, Nov 6th, 2013

Ryan Ferguson freed by Missouri appeals court for murder of sports editor Kent Heitholt

A Missouri state appeals court panel overturned on the murder conviction of a Missouri man who has maintained his innocence while serving a 40-year sentence for the slaying and robbery in 2001 of a newspaper sports editor.

The appeals court ruled that the prosecutor’s office withheld evidence from defense attorneys for Ryan Ferguson that could have aided him during his trial for the strangling and beating death of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.

Crime Scene Tape photo/editted pic from FBI.gov

Crime Scene Tape photo/editted pic from FBI.gov

“Under the facts and circumstances of this case, we conclude that Ferguson did not receive a fair trial. His verdict is not worthy of confidence,” Western District appeals court Judge Cynthia Martin wrote in the 3-0 decision.

Ferguson’s case has been the subject of numerous national TV news shows.

Now 29, Ferguson was convicted of beating and strangling Heitholt in the newpaper’s parking lot on Halloween in 2001.

Chuck Erickson, testified that he had recalled from dreams several years later that the two of them had been involved in Heitholt’s slaying after a late night of Halloween partying.

Erickson received a 25-year sentence as part of a plea agreement for testifying against Ferguson.

Cole County Judge Dan Green declined to grant Ferguson a new trial last year. Ferguson then took his case to the appeals court, which heard arguments this September. The appeals panel said Ferguson should be released if prosecutors have not filed notice of a retrial within 15 days after the court issues its formal mandate, which could take several weeks.

Ferguson’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner, said she filed a motion Tuesday seeking his release on bail while prosecutors decide whether to retry him. She visited Ferguson in a prison in Jefferson City and later read a handwritten statement from him thanking supporters, at a Columbia news conference with Ferguson’s parents and girlfriend.

“We’ve won a major battle, however the war continues,” Ferguson’s statement said. “I need your help now more than ever. Look forward to sitting at the Thanksgiving table with my family if justice permits.”

The appeals court ordered that Ferguson be released if prosecutors do not file notice of a retrial within 15 days, according to the court document. The prosecution has not indicated whether it will move for a retrial or drop the case.

“We have no idea at all (about the prosecution’s intentions), but it seems rather dubious considering there are no witnesses now,” Bill Ferguson said. “They’ve all admitted they committed perjury, and there’s no physical evidence, so there’s no merit. This case has no merit.”






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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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