My son Ryan Ferguson was convicted in 2005 for the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. Ryan was convicted solely on the testimony of two witnesses. Both of those witnesses have since given written affidavits that their testimonies during the original trial were false. That leaves zero evidence against my son. No witnesses, no physical evidence, no DNA, no motive, in fact nothing tying him to the crime. Yet my son is currently serving a 40-year sentence for a crime he had no part in.
The fact is Ryan should never have been convicted in the first place, because the main witness in his case was never credible. The jury simply believed Chuck Erickson’s story.
Ryan and Chuck were Rock Bridge High School juniors who snuck into a bar on Halloween night 2001 and left sometime around 1:15 a.m. Ryan said he drove his friend Chuck home, then came home himself. He has never wavered from his account.
Years later Chuck - who is a troubled young man - told friends that he had ‘dreams’ about the murder. He said he initially repressed his memory of the killing but began to recall details two years later after reading news reports of the crime. Details emerged in his ‘dreams’, he claimed. He called the encounter a botched robbery hatched when he and Ryan ran out of money and wanted to keep drinking.
The police brought Chuck in for questioning after hearing about his stories. In the interrogation tapes - available online - it is clear that Chuck knows very little about the case and admits he doesn’t even know if he was there. But the police feed him key information about the murder and pressure him into confessing and implicating Ryan in the murder. There was never any physical evidence against either of them. My son Ryan had never been in any trouble with the law before this point and had no connection to the victim Kent Heitholt.
The second ‘witness’, janitor Jerry Trump, originally told friends he could not identify who he saw near the body. But during a 2005 trial he positively identified Ryan and my son was sentenced to spend the majority of his adult life behind bars.
Both Erickson and Trump now claim they were coerced into modifying their statements in favor of the prosecution of my son. Chuck blames Columbia Police interrogators for not delving into inconsistencies in his story, and Trump said Prosecutor Kevin Crane told him that it would be “helpful to him” if Trump could identify Ryan as one of the men at the crime scene. The prosecution also withheld key information that could have helped prove my son’s innocence, including further witnesses who state that Ryan wasn’t at the scene.
We now know that both key witnesses gave false testimonies. In light of these significant changes in eyewitness testimony and the lack of ANY evidence implicating Ryan, it is clear that my son deserves a new trial.
Ryan’s case has been covered extensively on NBC Dateline, CBS 48 Hours Mystery, and numerous TV news reports and magazine and newspaper articles. His story has touched millions of people across America – and the world. It has become clear to many people that Ryan has been betrayed by the Missouri justice system and deserves another shot at justice.
I ask you to please sign this petition to demand that my son Ryan be granted a new trial and the chance to rebuild his life…