A retired Columbia police detective says he and his co-workers did nothing wrong in the murder investigation of Daily Tribune sports writer Kent Heitholt. An $11 million settlement has been reached between Columbia man Ryan Ferguson and six police detectives who accused him of killing Heitholt. Westbrook tells Columbia radio station KSSZ the settlement hurts his honor and integrity.
“I always try to do the right thing,” says Westbrook. “Am I always successful? Maybe. Maybe not. I try to be and if I make a mistake, I admit it. Always. This is not one of those cases. We did absolutely, unequivocally nothing wrong in that case. We did not violate anyone’s rights. We did not fabricate any evidence. We did absolutely nothing wrong.”
He says he still believes Ferguson was responsible for the 2001 murder. In 2013, an appeals court ruled that authorities did not disclose testimony that would have helped Ferguson’s case. Ferguson’s conviction was vacated days later.
Westbrook says a statement from Ferguson’s attorney is wrong, and the officers are not admitting fault in the case.
“Honor means everything and the way this thing is playing out is a stain on my honor and it’s not correct,” says Westbrook.
He wanted to go to trial, but Westbrook’s attorney advised against it.
“The question is, can their attorney lead a jury to think you did something wrong. I guess the answer to that was yes,” says Westbrook.
After Ferguson was released from prison, he sued the officers, along with the city and former Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane. Ferguson says the detectives fabricated evidence, including witness statements, to frame Ferguson for Heitholt’s murder. Ferguson sought emotional damages for his decade-long incarceration. He will pay about $1 million in legal expenses.
The other detectives named in the lawsuit include John Short, Bryan Liebhart, Jeff Nichols, Lloyd Simons and Latisha Storer.
By Brad Tregnago of KSSZ