Charles told two different stories regarding Dallas Mallory while constructing his narrative for the police. Of course neither one of the stories turned out to be true. Charles did his best to piece together the information that the police were feeding him. When Charles read through the discovery provided by the prosecution detailing the route that police’s tracking dogs took while tracking a scent from the crime scene, he realized that he had previously told the police that he went in the opposite direction, so he simply changed his story to fit the needed scenario.
Charles was with Mallory at a party earlier that night before going to the By George bar. Charles first suggested that he talked to Mallory while he was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Providence and Ash, shortly after Heitholt's murder. After receiving the discovery from Prosecutor Crane, Charles changed his story to state that he saw Mallory at the intersection of Providence and Locust, while stopped at a red light with two female companions.
It was not possible that Mallory was stopped at a red light at the time in question because the crossing signals switch to flashing yellow lights in the early morning hours.
Dallas Mallory was questioned by police after the murder. The police wanted Mallory to state that he saw Charles and Ryan in the downtown area near the Columbia Tribune on the night of the murder. According to Ryan Ferguson's civil lawsuit, when Mallory denied seeing Charles and Ryan the night of the murder, several officers screamed at him, calling him a liar, and kept insisting that he was not telling them the truth. Mallory began to cry and told the detectives that he wanted to leave. His interrogators told him he could not leave until he told the truth. They also refused to let him eat or use a phone. They even suggested that he could be charged with the murder if he refused to reiterate their version of events.
Mallory continued to tell investigators that he did not see Charles and Ryan, leading the detectives to deliberately fabricated reports indicating that Mallory told them he saw Charles and Ryan on the night of the murder and that Charles said “we beat someone down” to corroborate details from Charles’s interviews.
Mallory signed a sworn affidavit in December 2004, before Ryan's trial, stating he did not see or talk to Charles or Ryan downtown on the night of the murder. This information was not used at trial and Mallory was not asked to testify because the prosecutor knew that Mallory would have denied seeing Ryan or Charles downtown that night, but the fabricated information from detectives was shown to Charles to convince him to take the plea deal. This information was withheld from the defense. This was another Brady violation.
Mallory testified at a hearing in 2008, stating once again that he did not see or talk to Charles or Ryan downtown on the night of the murder. He also told the court that he was not driving that night because he did not have a drivers license.
Shawna Ornt testifies that she did not see Charles and Ryan at the scene
Shawna Ornt worked as a janitor at the Columbia Tribune with Jerry Trump. At 2:22 am on the night of Heitholt's murder, Ornt stepped outside to take a break. Ornt witnessed a shadowy figure near Kent Heitholt's car and went back inside to get Trump. When they both returned to the parking lot, Ornt saw two people stand up from behind Heitholt’s car. One of the people walked toward her into the light and told her to get help because someone was hurt. According to Ornt, the two people then left the scene. Ornt was able to get a good look at the person that spoke to her, and she worked with police to create a composite. Ornt was the only witness in the case to work with police to create a composite.
Ornt described the person that talked to her in the parking lot as a 6 foot tall man with blond hair wearing a short sleeved tee shirt weighing approximately 200 pounds. The description did not match either Charles or Ryan. Both were much smaller than Ornt described. The composite did not look at all like Charles or Ryan.
Dallas Mallory refutes information obtained from Charles
Jerry Trump, a janitor at the Tribune, was with co-worker Shawna Ornt when they saw two figures in the parking lot near the crime scene on the night of the murder, leading Ornt to call 911. During the 911 call, Trump also talked to the operator and could not provide a description of either figure he saw in the lot. According to the police that questioned him, Trump had “no useful information” about the night of the murder.
Trump had gone to prison for an unrelated crime after the Heitholt murder. At the start of 2003, while Trump was in prison, the police department produced a video for distribution in Missouri’s prisons. The video showed information about the Heitholt murder and offered a $2,500 reward to anyone able to provide information that might lead to an arrest. Trump acknowledged under oath that he saw the video in prison, but he never never made any effort to contact police for the reward because he did not recognize the figures he saw that night. Trump had multiple opportunities to offer up any information he had on the case. The truth was that Trump had nothing to offer. The police that initially questioned Trump were right all along.
Trump was released from prison Dec 13, 2004, and was given 2 years probation. He was summoned to Prosecutor Kevin Crane’s office a week after his release. After his meeting with Prosecutor Crane, Trump was now miraculously able to remember seeing Charles and Ryan in the Tribune parking lot on the night of the murder.
During Ryan Ferguson's 2005 trial, Trump’s testimony was crucial to the jury’s guilty verdict. In a dramatic moment in court, Trump confidently pointed to Ryan Ferguson as the man he saw at the murder scene. On CBS 48 Hours, a juror stated: "when Trump said he’d seen Ryan, and pointed him out, that was pretty much all you needed right there."
One of Trump's lies that went unquestioned during the trial would eventually help the defense on appeal. Trump testified that his wife Barbara had sent him a Columbia Tribune newspaper in prison containing Charles and Ryan's mug shots. This was a lie. Before the trial, the prosecutor's investigator, William Haws, interviewed Trump's wife Barbara, and she told him she had no memory of sending a newspaper article to her husband Jerry. Haws made no report of his conversation with Barbara Trump, and the information was never given to the defense. This prevented the defense from properly cross examining the prosecution's star witness at trial. Trump would later admit that he fabricated the story because he succumbed to the pressure of Crane. This omitted evidence was a Brady violation that would later prove very costly to the prosecution's case. Trump's co-worker Shawna Ornt told Prosecutor Crane that the person that walked toward her that night in the parking lot was not Charles Erickson or Ryan Ferguson. This information was suppressed by Crane, and would not be discovered until Ornt testified under oath in 2008. This was another Brady violation. It is no surprise that Crane favored Trump as a star witness over Ornt at trial. Crane was very careful not to ask Ornt at trial if she could identity the figures she saw that night, because he already knew her answer would benefit the defense. Crane stuck with his manipulated witness Jerry Trump.
At Ryan Ferguson's 2012 habeas hearing Trump confessed the truth, stating that he had committed perjury due to pressure from Prosecutor Crane. Trump admitted that the first time he saw the newspaper was in Crane’s office on Dec 21, 2004. Trump did not see Charles and Ryan in the parking lot that night. It was all a lie. Trump's fear of being sent back to prison made him an easy target for Crane. After Trump told the truth, he tearfully asked Ryan Ferguson and his family for forgiveness.
The Perjured Witness - Jerry Trump
Jerry Trump testifying at Ryan Ferguson's habeas hearing
Ryan Ferguson's civil lawsuit provides further details about these witnesses. Ornt told Prosecutor Kevin Crane that the person who walked toward her that night was not Charles Erickson or Ryan Ferguson. This information was suppressed by Prosecutor Crane, and would not be discovered until Ornt testified under oath in 2008. This was another Brady violation. It is no surprise that Crane favored Trump as a star witness over Ornt at trial. Crane was very careful not to ask Ornt at trial if she could identity the figures she saw that night, because he already knew her answer would benefit the defense.
Christine Varner was a co-worker of Jerry Trump at the Columbia Tribune. Varner helped Trump get his job as a janitor with the company. Varner testified in 2008 that Trump told her he was unable to see the faces of the shadowy figures in the parking lot due to a light that was shining directly in his eyes. Varner's testimony confirms Trump's admission that he lied at trial.
Christine Varner Testimony (begins at 1:10)