Charles Erickson and Ryan Ferguson were wrongfully convicted in 2005 for the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt in Missouri. There are no witnesses, no physical evidence, no DNA, no motive, in fact nothing tying either of them to the crime.
The Heitholt murder investigation remained unsolved after two years, when police received a tip from a person that heard Charles Erickson discussing a dream that he had about the murder, leading them to bring Charles in for questioning.
At the time of his interrogation, Charles was confused about the events that took place that night. Like many teenagers, Charles and his friends partied too hard that Halloween, leaving Charles with no recollection of the night.
Coming from a family with a history in law enforcement, Charles thought he could trust the police officers that were interrogating him. Unfortunately Charles was misled, causing him to plead guilty to the crime and provide false testimony in return for a reduced sentence.
When viewing his interrogation video, it is clear that Charles knows very little about the crime. The detectives spoon-feed Charles unreported details of the case, and pressure him into providing a false confession while implicating Ryan in the process.
Investigators used extremely poor judgment when making the decision to extract a false confession out of a young man that was in no position to give a proper statement. Charles must not be held accountable for the egregious misconduct of the police investigating the Heitholt murder. Charles must not continue to be punished for a murder he did not commit. The Heitholt family deserves justice. The continued incarceration of Charles Erickson brings no justice and no real closure for the family of the victim.
When given the opportunity, Charles recanted his statements implicating him and Ryan Ferguson, and he has done everything in his power to help set the record straight, not only for Ryan, but also for the Heitholt family.
Thankfully, Ryan Ferguson was finally freed on November 12, 2013, after serving nearly ten years in prison. Charles Erickson remains wrongfully convicted, and is currently serving a 25 year prison sentence.
This website has been created to help bring a better understanding to Charles Erickson's case. It is now blatantly obvious that Charles Erickson had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Kent Heitholt. This case continues to highlight the terribly flawed Missouri justice system. It is time for the nonsense to end.
A Message to Ryan Ferguson's Supporters
It is understandable that many of you may feel that Charles bears some responsibility for Ryan's wrongful conviction. We ask that you please take the time to learn about false confessions before passing judgment. Charles was put under extreme pressure, and was threatened with the death penalty if he did not cooperate with the prosecution. If you support Ryan Ferguson, based on the facts of this case, then you should support the release of Charles Erickson.
Ryan Ferguson's attorney Kathleen Zellner has spoken out for Charles Erickson as well:
"Charles is absolutely innocent. He was misled into thinking Ryan Ferguson was going to plead guilty and that certain witnesses would place him near the crime scene. He was young, vulnerable, and frightened. He deeply regrets his trial testimony but he was trapped by the State. He deserves understanding not condemnation. He should be free not imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The charade put on by the State needs to end."
Charles Erickson is now being represented by Attorney Laura O'Sullivan, a professor at University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law, and Senior Counsel with the Midwest Innocence Project. O'Sullivan voiced strong support for her client shortly after Ryan Ferguson's release:
"Charles Erickson is relieved and overjoyed that Ryan Ferguson was released. Charles Erickson is a victim of the system. I will fight diligently and relentlessly for his release. Fifty percent justice is not enough, half the story won't do. We need to finish the job of finding justice, justice for Charles Erickson, and ultimately, the Heitholt family"
Attorney Laura O'Sullivan