Friday evening, there was a really good Dateline on. It was a case I’d heard about before and I was happy to see this was an update episode. Dateline can drag on sometimes and not have a ton of information so I didn’t get my hopes up.
Kent Heitholt was murdered at 2AM on November 1, 2001. By all accounts, Kent was a big teddy bear of a guy. He was a sports writer. He was walking to his car when he was attacked. Two janitors called 911. And two years later, still no break in the case.
Let me pause for a second because I know there are times when the victim gets passed over and all the attention goes to the person accused of the crime. The loss of Kent seems to still hurt his family, his friends and his co-workers. He left his imprint in the world and 10 years later, he’s still remembered. Good people should not be violently taken from the world. Kent was a good person.
Then came the bizarre 911 call from Chuck Erikson. He said he knew a murderer. He wanted to talk. The videos from his police interview were really odd. He said these memories were coming back and he’s pretty sure he and his friend Ryan killed Kent. They were partying at a bar. Underage. Drinking. They ran out of money and went outside to find someone to rob. They came upon Kent. Chuck hit him in the head with a tool from the car and Ryan strangled Kent with his own belt. His keys and watch were taken. Ryan was arrested and so was Chuck. Just based on that confession alone. Chuck made a deal and testified against Ryan. One janitor identified Ryan in court. There was no DNA, no evidence, no blood in Ryan’s car, no motive. He was convicted.
10 years later, he’s fighting his 40 year sentence and with good reason. Great reason in fact.
1. Chuck didn’t know a lot of details. And it’s very clear on the video that the detectives were handing him information. They told him they knew Kent was strangled with his own belt and then the detective said “do you see Ryan strangling him with the belt?” Not did you see it. DO you see it.
2. Chuck said while they were running away, they saw a friend stopped at a red light and talked to him. The friend was later interviewed and never stopped at the red light. Why? Because those lights go to blinking yellow lights after 1:30AM.
3. Ryan had $20 and a credit card in his wallet. Far from the idea that they ran out of drinking money and went to rob someone.
4. Chuck said that while looking for someone to rob, Ryan said he wanted to kill someone before he was 60 anyway. Who says that? 60? What a very weird statement to make. There have been plenty of killers who pondered what taking a life would mean. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say something like that.
5. Both janitors said they were pressured by the prosecution to identify Ryan. The one who did identify him was given a picture and said it would be really good if he could say he recognized Ryan.
6. Kent had foreign hairs in his hand, from his attacker. They did not match Ryan. Neither did the finger prints on Kent’s car.
7. Chuck recanted. Chuck also said he was pressured.
8. Kent’s co-worker, the last person to see him alive was never considered a suspect. Never interrogated. And what do you know, his story has changed many times. The car he drove is missing. He moved far away. In fact, he moved to Shreveport, claiming it was a safer city for his children. Um, have you ever been there? Gang activity out the wahzoo. It’s not a nice, shiny town.
9. Kent died just after 2AM. The bar closed before that at 1:30. Thus no need for more money to drink.
What in the world happened here? No evidence, no proof, no nothing. And get this, Ryan’s bail was set for 20 million dollars. Highest ever for a murder suspect. Because, you know a 20 year old kid has 20 mil stashed under his bed next to his Playboys. How could a boy get convicted of murder based on a case of lies from the prosecutor? Easy. You get a biased judge and a guliable jury. Since this case, two jury members have said that their jury didn’t want to sit and debate or consider. They were eager to go home. This was after 5 days of trial. Imagine how those sequestered juries feel. They believe Ryan is innocent. If all the witnesses who help convict him have came forward and said their testimony was a lie, why is Ryan still in jail? Why is appeal after appeal denied?
Welcome to the wonderful world of justice. Judges don’t want to question the jury’s decision. Or another judge. Even if there’s cold hard facts in front of their face. Even after 10 year in jail, Ryan is upbeat. He seems like a positive guy. He believes that one day he’ll go free and people will believe in his innocence. Well Ryan, you’ve got one believer right here. And hopefully many more after people read this post. I truly believe that the truth will be seen in Ryan’s new appeal. With the new evidence, Chuck recanting his story, witnesses saying they were pressured to testify, there’s no way a good judge will ignore that.
And big ginormous KUDOS to Bill Ferguson for fighting for his son’s life. He’s the reason all this evidence has come to light. He’s invested his time and his money to prove his son’s innocence. If you want to keep up to date on Ryan’s case, visit http://justiceforryanferguson.com/ for news and information.