How did he see the body face down? Final in a seriesCOLUMBIA, Mo 12/13/13 (Beat Byte) -- As Columbia police reopen the investigation into Kent Heitholt's murder, attention is turning to leads never fully investigated.
In interviews with several investigators, former Columbia Daily Tribune sportswriter Michael Boyd unfurled "a curiously evolving and, in some instances, inconsistent recollection," Missouri appellate court Justices wrote in a Nov. 5 brief that freed Ryan Ferguson from prison for the murder of Heitholt, Boyd's boss at the Tribune.
Boyd is consistent, however, about his presence at the crime scene as the last person to see the victim alive. "His statement that he was in the Tribune parking lot throughout the very time frame hypothesized by the State as the window within which Mr. Heitholt was murdered has never varied," the Justices wrote. (See video below).
On the night of the murder, Boyd said in a deposition he made a "major mistake" that caused a "dispute" with Heitholt: he took the wrong photo for a story about a women's softball team. Heitholt wanted Boyd to call all 18 players and their coach to apologize. Other witnesses claimed Boyd was a "poor reporter" who had ongoing problems getting along with his boss.
Despite the incriminating evidence and possible motive, "Boyd was never investigated as a person of interest in Mr. Heitholt's murder," the appellate Justices noted, strange because police tested hair and saliva samples from 32 other men.
Boyd, meanwhile, has steadfastly denied involvement in the crime. He left the Tribune some years ago, and was last working and living in a community south of St. Louis.Boyd spoke with Heitholt about a stray cat Heitholt fed, standing almost at the very spot Heitholt was killed, he explained in the first interview. He was sitting in his car in the Tribune parking lot by the second interview.
Boyd described the car -- a blue Oldsmobile -- in a February 14, 2005 interview with private investigator Jim Miller. "Upon seeing Heitholt, Boyd drove south through the alley, then east, then north, then sat conversing between 2:10 -- 2:15 am," Miller explained. The seven-minute murder happened between 2:15-2:22 am.
Then, Boyd revealed a stunning detail: as he left the driveway, he saw Heitholt’s tail lights. "Kent drove off the parking lot as I was driving off," he said.
"Clearly, this is impossible," Ferguson's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, wrote in the appellate brief that freed her client. "Heitholt was lying on the ground, dead or dying."
When Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane's lead investigator, Bill Haws, interviewed Boyd, the make and model of Boyd's car changed. He was driving a red Plymouth the night of the murder, he told Haws on July 24, 2005. The color matched a car Charles Erickson, still in prison for the crime, told Haws one month earlier he saw leave the crime scene.
Five Stories of Michael Boyd: A Re-enactment
Another stunning -- and entirely new detail -- also emerged. As Boyd left the parking lot, he saw "two young white guys standing near the dumpsters," he told Haws.Boyd was back in his blue Oldsmobile when he spoke with private investigator Matthew Allen on June 5, 2006. "I was driving my blue car that night, and if I was sitting in it right now, I could punch those buttons and tell you what stations they were," Boyd told Allen, referencing his car radio.
Around 2:20 am, Boyd said "he and Heitholt had a 4-5 minute conversation" before he left, at 2:24 - 2:25 am, during which time Boyd said he almost hit the two white males, and worried they would get his license plate.
No wonder the Justices were intrigued. By his 5th interview, Boyd had placed himself all over the crime scene at all times relevant to the crime. And since the murder occurred between 2:15 and 2:22 am, it was finished by the time Boyd said the two white males entered the parking lot. At best, they were only witnesses to what had already happened.
And at the very least, Michael Boyd should have been the state's #1 eyewitness. But Prosecutor Crane barely noticed him.In a final interview with private investigator Steven Kirby, Boyd made a chilling admission: he returned to the crime scene to watch investigators process evidence about an hour after the murder. Boyd also said something that would have alerted all the great detectives: Holmes, Columbo, Nero Wolfe, Hercule Poirot.
"The body was face down," Boyd told Kirby. But in coming to his aid to see if he was still alive, still breathing, "Tribune employees turned Kent face up before calling 911 at 2:26 am."
Beside the employees, only one other person could have seen the body face down, as Zellner notes on pg. 59 of her appellate brief.
"It is undisputed that Heitholt was murdered face down and was turned over at around 2:25 am by two Tribune employees that came to his aid," she explained. "Therefore, Boyd could not have seen Heitholt face down unless he saw him dead, before 2:25 am."So if Michael Boyd didn't kill Kent Heitholt, how could he have seen the body face down?-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat