Jury deliberates in trial of slain sports editor

Saturday, October 22, 2005

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Jury deliberations are under way in the trial of a man accused of killing a newspaper editor four years ago to get money for a post-Halloween night of underage drinking. Ryan Ferguson, who turned 21 on Wednesday, is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Kent Heitholt, a Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor who was beaten and strangled in the newspaper parking lot on the morning of Nov. 1, 2001. Jurors entered deliberations shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, the trial's fifth day. If convicted, Ferguson faces a possible life sentence. The trial has centered on the memory of Ferguson's former high school classmate Charles Erickson, the prosecution's star witness. Erickson said he initially re-pressed his memory of the crime but began to recall details two years later on Halloween 2003. Some of those details emerged in dreams, Erickson testified. In response, Ferguson's defense attorneys called upon expert witness Elizabeth Loftus, a California psychologist who said Erickson's recollections were planted by overzealous police investigators.

Humane Society gets $100,000 in settlement

NEOSHO, Mo. -- An egg producer agreed to pay the Neosho Humane Society $100,000 Friday following misdemeanor animal abuse charges for the way it disposed of some chickens in southwest Missouri, prosecutors said. Newton County Prosecutor Scott Watson said the charges that were filed in July against Moark, an employee and two subcontractors have been dismissed. As part of the agreement, Moark officials will install new equipment to euthanize its chickens more humanely. Newton County Sheriff officials began investigating this summer after a man videotaped live chickens being dumped from a conveyer belt into a trash bin at Moark's facility south of Neosho. Before the video was turned over to authorities, footage of squawking chickens falling into a trash bin had been shown at the Newton County Fair and posted on the Internet. During the investigation Moark admitted to dumping 200 hens before they were dead, Watson said.

Springfield, Ill. man dies from West Nile virus

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A 74-year-old man from central Illinois is the ninth person to die in the state after contracting West Nile disease, state health officials said Friday. The McLean County man died on Oct. 8, and his physician said other conditions contributed to his death, the Illinois Department of Public Health said. The others who have died were all 70 years old or older. The oldest victims were two 92-year-old women from Cook County. State health officials also said Friday that three new cases of West Nile have been identified in Illinois, bringing the total number of cases to 235 so far this year. The newest cases include a 50-year-old woman from DuPage County and two women from Kane County, one who is 37 years old and the other 65. Last year, the state had 60 cases and four deaths. Health officials say increased spraying and monitoring have prevented a repeat of 2002, when Illinois led the nation with 884 cases and 67 deaths. West Nile is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes that pick up the virus by feeding on infected birds.

St. Louis aldermen urge allowing gays in military

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis on Friday joined a list of other cities urging Congress to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Aldermanic president James Shrewsbury introduced the resolution that was unanimously approved. It urges Congress to pass and President Bush to sign the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, introduced in March, which would allow lesbians, gays and bisexuals to serve openly. "You don't have to be a gay rights activist to oppose discrimination," Shrewsbury said. "There is no relationship between performance in any position and sexual orientation." Among the bill's 98 co-sponsors are three Missouri Democrats in the House -- Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay of St. Louis and Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City.

-- From wire reports

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