Ryan Ferguson's lawyer has filed a $100 million lawsuit against 13 defendants, including City of Columbia, Missouri, the Columbia Police Department and Boone County, resulting from his wrongful conviction for the November 2001 murder of Kent Heitholt. Heitholt was found deceased by coworkers in the parking lot of the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he was the sports editor. He had been struck several times in the head with a blunt object and strangled with his own belt.
With literally handfuls of evidence, authorities were stumped for two years, until a 19 year old man claims to have dreams about the murder. He has no actual recollection of these events and only knows what he has read in the newspaper about the crime. Yet, somehow, he is offered a deal for a lesser sentence for turning on his friend, and testifying that it was then 17-year-old Ryan Ferguson who was responsible for Heitholt's murder.
Ryan was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years behind bars. Through endless fighting by those on his behalf, the sentence was vacated in November of 2013, with Ryan being exonerated and released. He is now seeking to claim the large amount in damages, after having spent a decade in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and rightfully so. Those years are some he will never be able to get back. During that time, he would have attended college with his peers and likely had the traditional university life experience. He then would have graduated and likely gone on to work in some corporate field. Who can really tell what life would have been for Ryan Ferguson without the unfortunate series of events that brought him to here?
However, he has proven himself a strong man. After his conviction, he spent some time traveling, and apparently going to colleges and telling his story. One would imagine a book will be coming soon, because that's what one does when they have inspired such a media frenzy.
The truth about who killed Kent Heitholt remains a mystery, despite all the evidence found at the scene. Thirty-two men were DNA tested against the unidentified hair found at the scene, not including the last man who admits to speaking with him, who has told 5 different versions of the event.
Chuck Erickson remains imprisoned for the murder, though he is also innocent of the crime. Ryan is vocal in the quest to free his friend, despite the fact that Chuck's inaccurate testimony is the reason why they have both been wrongfully convicted. To learn more, visit the Free Charles Erickson Facebook page.