Cole County Judge to Hear Arguments in Heitholt Murder Case

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JEFFERSON CITY - The attorney for Ryan Ferguson, the convicted murderer of Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt in 2001, will argue for a new trial at 10:30 Tuesday morning in front of 19th Judicial Circuit Judge Daniel Green.

Green has the power to grant another trial for Ferguson if he feels the evidence presented in the petition by Kathleen Zellner would change the nature of the case and the conviction from 2004.

Ferguson is serving a 40-year prison sentence for the conviction, thanks in part to the testimony of Charles Erickson. Erickson pleaded guilty to the murder and said that Ferguson accompanied him in beating Heitholt to death with a tire tool.

Erickson has since reversed that story, claiming Ferguson was not at the crime scene and that heavy drug use affected his prior testimony. Ferguson's father filed a petition in February, arguing that this new evidence-- among other factors-- is cause for a new trial.

Part of the petition from Zellner includes an affadavit from Dr. Kim Fromme, who said Erickson's "self-report of events that transpired is unreliable." The attorney general's office disputes Erickson's recantment. A written response to Ferguson's petition states Erickson "could not do that if he did not remember." It also argues that the judge cannot ignore Erickson's earlier testimony; that a "recantation does not nullify the existence of previous testimony by Mr. Erickson."