Preliminary Hearing Held in Ryan Ferguson Case

Related Story

JEFFERSON CITY - After months in the shadows, the controversial case of Ryan Ferguson is back in the spotlight. A preliminary hearing was held in the murder case of Ryan Ferguson Wednesday to determine what evidence can be presented in the evidentiary hearing, set for next week.

Judge Daniel Green heard 17 motions, suggestion the barring of certain testimonies, video footage, audio tapes, etc.

Ferguson was convicted in 2005 of second degree murder in the strangulation death of Columbia Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt.

Ferguson filed a habeas petition in February 2011 for a hearing in light of two key witness recantations. Charles Erickson, a former high school friend's recantation. Erikson initially pleaded guilty and received a lesser sentence (25 rather than Ferguson's 40 years) but now claims he acted alone. Erickson does still stand by his claim that Ferguson was with him that night, which Ferguson denies. 

The second recantation comes from Jerry Trump, a janitor who heard noise around Heitholt's vehicle and then came to the murder scene. Trump previously identified Ferguson as being at the scene, but now claims the identification was prompted by then- Boone County prosecutor Kevin Crane. 

Trump's recantation and expert testimony are expected in Monday's hearing.  

Ferguson's attorney Kathleen Zellner mentioned the notion of a "blackout expert" to be brought in from Texas and shed light on what happened to Erickson's memory. Zellner said the purpose of having an expert testify would be to describe blackout memory recall. This is additional information, but Erickson she says he's always reported he blacked out. 

"I have absolutely no doubt in Ryan's innocence," Zellner said.

Erickson's attorney on the other hand, sited the Missouri Supreme Court's stance, that the affects of alcohol on memory is the type of information that doesn't really aid the jury. 

Erickson is expected to testify next Wednesday, April 18th. 

Assistant Attorney General Theodore Bruce said Erickson recently put together a new 20-page recantation document. Bruce said there's various theories for recanting.  

"We don't know what version of recantation Erickson will use," Bruce said. 

"The absolute key is that the witnesses, the only two witnesses against Ryan have recanted and say they lied during trial, and that Kevin Crane aided and imbedded in a false testimony," Ryan Ferguson's father, Bill Ferguson said. 

The evidentiary hearing will begin Monday at 9:00 a.m. at Cole County Courthouse.