(Memphis) News Channel 3 got the first statement from Timothy McKinney as he walked out of jail Wednesday, "Just happy to get this over with. It's been a long road, just happy to get it over with."
Timothy McKinney is free a day after pleading guilty to a lesser charge in the 1997 murder of off-duty Memphis Police Officer Don Williams.
McKinney was tried three times for the murder, getting a conviction that was overturned on appeal and then two deadlocked juries.
He says he never lost his hope about being set free, "I kept my faith."
McKinney still says he did not kill Officer Don Williams, but he plead guilty to second degree murder to bring an end to the case.
"The vehicle to get him out of jail for a crime he didn't commit was to plead guilty to a crime he didn't do and that's what he did," says Gerald Skahan, McKinney's attorney.
Comedian Lester Bibbs was a witness to the shooting.
He says he was never subpoenaed to testify at the last trial, though attorneys claimed he couldn't be found.
He said all along McKinney was not the killer, "I hope he can put his life back together, people give him a chance to put his life back together."
McKinney plans to spend time with his family and then determine if he will stay in Memphis.
"We are just glad he is coming home, glad it is over with. It's been a long time," says McKinney's sister, Lillian Tyus.
To the family of the officer he is convicted of killing, McKinney says, "My sympathy goes out to their family, but I want them to know from the beginning, I still maintain my innocence."
A spokesperson for Don Williams' family told me it's ironic that Officer Williams was killed just as he was turning 38 years old and now his admitted killer, Timothy McKinney, gets to start his life over again at age 38.
They say they are saddened and can only hope McKinney turns his life into something good.