- Associated Press - Monday, March 21, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A 31-year-old man whose dreams led him to confess to the slaying of a Missouri journalist says he had nothing to do with the killing and is planning to appeal.

Charles Erickson is serving a 25-year sentence in the death of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt, who was killed on Nov. 1, 2001. Erickson’s confession also led to the nearly 10-year incarceration of his friend, Ryan Ferguson, who was freed in late 2013 because prosecutors withheld evidence.

Erickson started having dreams about Heitholt’s death more than two years after the killing and eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges, the Columbia Daily Tribune (https://bit.ly/1pCPP5S ) reports.

Now he says he blacked out from drinking on the night of the slaying and that many of the details in his confession came from investigators and news reports.

“He’s a victim, just like Ryan,” said Bill Ferguson, Ryan Ferguson’s father. “Here’s a guy who confessed to a murder he did not commit - he could not have committed if you look at the timeline and the evidence.”

Police picked Erickson up on a tip. Video of a subsequent police interview shows officers feeding information to him.

Erickson eventually took a plea deal and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He also agreed to testify against Ferguson, who was convicted after a 2005 trial and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Erickson and several witnesses later recanted their testimony, and after several post-conviction hearings, a Missouri Court of Appeals panel vacated Ferguson’s convictions on Nov. 5, 2013. He was released a week later after spending nearly a decade in prison.

Erickson is not eligible for release from the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green until at least 2020.

In a prison interview last week, Erickson said he doesn’t remember anything after leaving a Columbia bar and asking for a ride home.

Attorney Gary Brotherton, who specializes in post-conviction proceedings, said he plans to file a habeas corpus writ to request Erickson’s release in the coming months.

Erickson said he’s not getting his hopes up and that being locked up has made him realize everything he previously took for granted.

“Especially family,” Erickson said. “That was one of the things I figured out as soon as I got locked up. Family, sobriety. I’m never going to drink again. I’m never going to get high again.”


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com

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