COLUMBIA, Mo. - A Missouri man who spent nearly a decade behind bars before having his murder conviction overturned became a free man Tuesday night after the state's attorney general declined to file new charges against him on Tuesday.
Ryan Ferguson, who was convicted in the 2001 murder of a newspaper editor here, received a rockstar's reception in a news conference that felt more like a pep rally.
"I can get back to living my life, though I don't know yet how that will feel. If this is any indication, it's kind of weird," Ferguson joked into a forest of microphones.
The case captured national attention for its dramatic twists and plot lines. Ferguson was only connected to the crime by a former friend years after the murder. That friend said he had dreamlike memories of the crime, but lacked specifics.
Another witness then came forward and said the two men were the killers, but both later recanted their testimony.
With no physical evidence to tie Ferguson to the crime, his freedom became a cause célèbre on Facebook. His father Bill toured the country giving interviews and drumming up support for his son's case.
With the backing of prominent attorney Kathleen Zellner, Ferguson successfully appealed his conviction on constitutional grounds-- ultimately leading to his release tonight.
The 29-year-old, who has now spent roughly a third of his life incarcerated, said he had no specific plans beyond a dinner at Dairy Queen.
He has written most of a book about his ordeal and said he kept his body and mind in shape for a future still uncertain, but now his to determine.
"I don't know that I was expecting just to get out and do what I wanted. I couldn't look too far into the future," Ferguson said. "I'm ready for anything really."
Ferguson's supporters have raised almost $30,000 in just three days. To donate to the fund, visit Fundly website here: https://fundly.com/ryan-ferguson-fund