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Columbia man shares prison exoneration story


What's it like to be incarcerated for several years and then exonerated for a crime you didn't commit?

Ryan Ferguson, a Columbia man who was released from prison after 10 years for the 2001 murder of Kent Heitholt, shared insight into what it's like to be freed from prison after several years for a murder he didn't commit after Kevin Strickland was released from prison Tuesday.

Strickland is a free man after spending more than 42 years behind bars for a 1978 triple murder, he has maintained his innocence the whole time.

Ferguson said he sees many parallels in his and Strickland's case, and in the hurdles faced when exonerated.

"He's coming into the world, it's a very strange world, its scary and he doesn't have anything and so he needs all the help he can get," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he sees similarities in the way the justice system failed them both.

"After years of abuse and misconduct by police and prosecutors I was still scared for my life and I didn't know what the next step was or what was going to happen next," Ferguson said.

The State of Missouri won't provide any financial help for Strickland after his 43 years in prison.

Ferguson said Strickland needs people's support.

 "Fortunately for Kevin Strickland, there is a GoFundMe. I will be donating my family will be donating my friends will be donating because this is a man who lost 40 plus years of his life," Ferguson said.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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