GALESBURG, ILLINOIS - A man in prison for 23 years for a rape and murder DNA testing shows he didn't commit was released from a Galesburg prison Monday, November 20th.
"I just kept praying, " said Nevest Coleman, of Chicago.
"I just want to get to know my family, I got to start over, 23 years," he said, while walking into the arms of waiting family.
Coleman wept and hugged a grand-baby he'd never met, and his own two children, who were only 2 years old and three months at the time of his wrongful conviction.
"I wrote them, I talked to them, if they had a problem, they'd write me. They'd communicate like that," he said.
In 1994, Coleman was a full-time groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox when he was arrested for the rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago's South side. He had a clean criminal record at the time he was arrested.
His case was researched recently by the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.
In August, DNA testing suggested he and another man who was arrested, Darryl Fulton, did not commit the crime and a judge ordered the convictions overturned.
"Nevest Coleman is innocent. He is innocent. That has been proven by DNA evidence that has shown a serial rapist was the perpetrator," said Russell Ainsworth, an attorney with the Exoneration Project.
Ainsworth says the true perpetrator went on to commit three other rapes while Nevest "sat behind bars for a crime he didn't commit".
Ainsworth says Coleman was abused and coerced into a confession by a team of Chicago police detectives, who he says have all retired. And says, there are more innocent people in prison who endured the same treatment.
"There are too many men that have been wrongfully convicted at the hands of the same detectives who victimized Nevest Coleman and his family," he said.
Coleman said Ainsworth and his family are now his family, too, and said he can't wait for Thanksgiving and lots of his sister's macaroni and cheese.
He choked up when he spoke about the loved ones he's lost while in prison.
"I lost my mom, I lost my father, uncles, aunties, grandmother," he said.
He said he is grateful and humbled, and tried to stay positive in prison.
"I'm just upset that it took them this long, but I can't be mad no more, you know. It's time to move forward, it's time to live," he said.