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Charles Erickson released from prison after serving nearly 20 years for Kent Heitholt murder

Charles Erickson walked out of the Boonville Correctional Center Monday morning after spending nearly two decades in prison.

The Free Charles Erickson page on Facebook posted a photo of Erickson shortly before 9 a.m. with the caption, “Charlie’s on his way home!”

Erickson, 38, was convicted in 2005 for the murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. He originally confessed to killing Heitholt, but later claimed he was coerced by Columbia police investigators.

“I know I was coerced,” he told KOMU 8 News in 2019. “I was coerced by the police, by the prosecutor, by my own attorney.”

During the investigation, Erickson implicated his friend Ryan Ferguson. Ferguson always maintained his innocence, but a jury found him guilty in 2005, mainly based on Erickson’s testimony.

Erickson recanted his original plea that Ferguson was his accomplice and said he committed the murder alone. That conviction was vacated in 2013 and Ferguson was released.

“It’s sort of selfish to say it felt good just to know it wasn’t on my conscience anymore,” Erickson told KOMU 8 News in 2019. “It felt good to know that I didn’t have someone else like that because I lied and especially, by that time, I was starting to realize, we didn’t do this.”

Erickson filed three petitions to wave his guilty plea in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

All three times, Erickson’s current lawyer, Landon Magnusson, filed a writ of habeas corpus, to show he was wrongfully detained.

Magnusson tweeted after Erickson’s release saying, “We are so glad he gets to return home to his family and pray that his innocence will one day be recognized by the state of Missouri.”