Posted: Apr 19, 2012 10:34 AM by Jessica Smith and Kylie McGivern
Updated: Apr 19, 2012 1:21 PM
COLE COUNTY - Ryan Ferguson's defense attorney, Kathleen Zellner, called two witnesses during the morning session of Ferguson's evidentiary hearing.
The first witness, Kim Bennett, testified that she saw Ryan Ferguson and Chuck Erickson get into a car and leave the By George nightclub around 1:30 a.m. the morning of Kent Heitholt's murder. Bennett said she spoke with two Columbia Police offcers after Ferguson was arrested, but was not called to testify in Ferguson's trial.
"I felt like I should have said something sooner. I always assumed I would have been called to trial. So I didn't feel like it was anything important that he would be contacting me, or else I would have been called to testify," said Bennett.
The prosecution questioned whether or not the investigators were actually Columbia Police officers or defense investigators. The prosecution also aruged that Bennett's testimony of where Ferguson parked his car in the By George parking lot conflicted with Ferguson's trial testimony.
The defense countered saying Ferguson testified that he parked "somewhere on First Street," making Bennett's description accurate.
Next, the defense called Michael Boyd to the stand. Boyd worked directly under Kent Heitholt at the Columbia Daily Tribune. Boyd said he left work at 2:10 a.m. on November 1, 2011. After getting in his car, he said he saw Heitholt come out to the parking lot.
Boyd said he pulled up his car to speak with Heitholt for approximately five minutes, "double checking" upcoming assignment details. As he left the parking lot, he says he was "startled" to see two individuals walking down a side alley. Boyd said he cannot describe the individuals, even their race or gender, and said they were "not hiding." Boyd then saw Heitholt bend down to get into his car, and assumed he was getting ready to drive home.
Boyd said he received a call saying that "Heitholt was hurt," around 4:00 a.m. He went back to the parking lot, which was blocked off by emergency personnel.
"What do you do? There's nothing you can do," Boyd said, describing when he saw Heitholt's body, then got in his car and drove home.
When asked whether there was any reason to believe the two individuals he saw in the alley had any connection to the murder, Boyd replied, "No."
Zellner pointed out that Boyd did not initially tell police about the two indivudals he saw in the parking lot, but Boyd said he told police within a year.
Boyd was never called to testify during the trial. No one checked his cars, asked what clothes he was wearing, or got a DNA sample, as Ferguson's attorney, Kathleen Zellner pointed out. Boyd was last person known to be with Heitholt the night of his murder.
Former Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane, was also called to the stand. Crane said he was never seeking the death penalty for Chuck Erickson, though when Erickson testified Wednesday, he said he considered the death penalty and first-degree murder charge to be the same thing.
When asked about Crane's connection to witness Jerry Trump, the janitor at the Columbia Tribune, Crane said, ""I never told any witness, including Trump, what they needed to say or testify to."