Retrial bid in editor slaying case advances

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A Columbia, Mo., man serving a 40-year prison sentence for the 2001 killing of a newspaper editor will get to present new evidence in court that his attorneys say proves his innocence.

Ryan Ferguson, 26, was convicted in 2005 of second-degree murder in the strangling of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.

A jury convicted Ferguson largely on the testimony of Charles Erickson, a former high school friend. Erickson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 25-year sentence.

Erickson now says he acted alone. And a former Columbia Tribune janitor says he mistakenly identified Erickson and Ferguson under pressure from the prosecutor.

A Cole County judge on Thursday set a late October hearing to consider the new claims. Ferguson did not attend the brief proceeding.

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