Robert Dewey was 33 when he went to prison for the 1994 rape and murder of a Colorado woman. The 51-year-old walked away free Monday, after new testing of DNA evidence pointed to someone else as the suspect.
At a court hearing Monday, a judge dismissed charges against Dewey and declared him a free man. Dewey flashed a small smile through his trim beard.
He told reporters he just wants to kick back, ride his motorcycle and spend time with his family.
"Contrary to popular belief, the world doesn't stop when you go to prison," said Dewey, wearing glasses and with his hair in two long braids. "There's a lot for me to catch up on."
Dewey was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison without parole after he was convicted of killing 19-year-old Jacie Taylor, who was found dead in her bathtub in Palisade on June 4, 1994.
DNA technology at the time gave jurors conflicting information to consider, according to news accounts at the time. At his sentencing hearing, Dewey had said there was still a killer out there.
The Colorado Attorney General's Office's Justice Review Project, which reviews cases where post-conviction DNA testing could exonerate a person, took up Dewey's case last year. The advanced DNA tests that cleared Dewey have led to an arrest warrant being issued for Douglas Thames, who is accused of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault.
Thames had lived near Taylor, and his DNA profile is linked to evidence found in Taylor's apartment, according to an affidavit.
Thames told investigators in a prison interview that he didn't know Taylor but that his girlfriend at the time had gone to classes with Taylor at Palisade High School, The Daily Sentinel newspaper reported.
Thames is already serving a life sentence for a 1989 murder in Fort Collins.
On Monday, Dewey thanked his legal team and said DNA evidence should be reviewed in more old cases, noting inmates around the country have been freed by new testing.
"Who else is out there?" Dewey said.
Dewey said he tried to stay positive while behind bars. "It threw me into a dark tunnel," he said of his conviction. His first two years in prison, he didn't make his bed.
Now, he's trying to understand why people text each other on their phones instead of just talking and where he might find work as he starts over.
"There's going to be trials and tribulations out here too," Dewey said.
Dewey added he wants to ride his motorcycle but has no specific plans for where. "As long as it's in the wind, I'm happy," he said.