The two men charged in connection with the murder of Kent Heitholt, former sports editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune, will be tried as adults, Boone County prosecutor Kevin Crane said at a press conference Thursday.
Ryan William Ferguson and Charles Timothy Erickson were 17 at the time of the crime. Ferguson has been charged with first-degree murder and Erickson with second-degree murder. Both have also been charged with first-degree robbery.
Police Chief Randy Boehm said robbery was the apparent motive for the Nov. 1, 2001, attack on Heitholt. The only item stolen, according to police, were Heitholt’s car keys, which have not been found. The police say they have no reason to believe the suspects targeted Heitholt for any reason other than he was "someone in a parking lot."
Boehm said none of the approximately 250 leads police pursued in the case over the past two and a half years connected Erickson or Ferguson to the crime. Rather, it was an anonymous call to Crimestoppers on Jan. 21 that led police to Ferguson and Erickson, the chief said. The caller was interviewed Wednesday, Boehm said, and Erickson was arrested at 9 a.m. that day on the campus of Moberly Community College-Columbia, where he was a student.
Erickson implicated himself and Ferguson in the crime, according to police. Ferguson, who police believe attends Park University in Kansas City, was arrested later that day and taken to the Columbia Police Department.
According to the criminal complaint against the two men, Erickson said he and Ferguson had planned to commit a robbery on the night of the murder. The men, who police believe had been drinking at By George’s, 63 E. Broadway, took a tire tool from Ferguson’s car and went several blocks to the Tribune parking lot, 101 N. Fourth St., where they attacked Heitholt.
Police said Erickson told officers that he hit Heitholt over the head with a tire tool and that after Heitholt collapsed, Ferguson strangled him.
The two suspects were to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Boone County Court House.
Danny Dougherty, Natalie, Graham Wood and Joel Currier contributed to this story