Posted: Oct 17, 2005 9:38 AM
Kent Heitholt was found beaten and strangled in the Columbia Tribune parking lot on November 1, 2001. Police arrested Chuck Erickson and Ryan Ferguson in March 2004 after witnesses said Erickson talked about the crime. Erickson pleaded guilty in November 2004 to second-degree murder, robbery and armed criminal action. He could get up to 25 years in prison for admitting his role.
The Tribune put out a special "atonement" section Sunday. They say while this is an emotional time for the staff, they look forward to objectively covering the trial this week. Tribune employees say closure will not come until the end of Ryan Ferguson's trial.
"I got a call from one of the sports reporters at about 2:30 in the morning on November 1st," said Columbia Tribune Managing Editor Jim Robertson. "He said Kent's been assaulted in the parking lot and it looks pretty bad. So I just immediatly got my clothes on and went down there."
But when Robertson got to the parking lot, Kent Heitholt was already dead.
"For quite some time everyone was just stunned," said Robertson, "disbelieving that something like that could happen."
Now, four years later, the Tribune staff is ready for justice.
"I think everyone is just watching and hoping that justice is served," Robertson said.
A number of people from the Tribune will be at the courthouse this week. Some will be reporters covering the trial, others will be there just for support.
"Nobody could dislike him on a personal level... He was a gentle guy," Robertson explained.
And the trial may finally bring closure.
"It makes us once again remember Kent," expressed Robertson. "Remember our friend. He was our friend. Hopefully we can put it all behind us."