Ryan Ferguson, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering a Columbia sports editor, said Friday evening that he plans to leave Missouri.
Ferguson was convicted in 2005 of the 2001 slaying of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. After a series of court battles, he became a free man earlier this month.
He celebrated with friends and family in Kansas City his freedom.
"It's a very strange world so far, displaced from what I've been living the last decade. Every day is a new adventure, and you're just trying to get acclimated." Ferguson said.
Ferguson says he finds it surreal that he's able to have dinner with his family, to come and go as he pleases after spending the past decade behind bars. He's been able to walk the streets of Columbia, but he believes it is time to move on.
"Unfortunately, I just don't feel comfortable here. Columbia, especially. I love the town, but with the authorities there, it's just a very uncomfortable place for me," Ferguson told KCTV5 News. "Everybody looks at you. There are so many people supportive people but it only takes one negative person to change everything."
He said he and his girlfriend are planning to relocate initially to Florida.
He said he enjoyed his Thanksgiving with his family.
"It was an amazing holiday," he said.
Ferguson and his mother, Leslie, both say they plan says they plan to work to help those who've been wrongly convicted.
"It's so hard to get an innocent person out of prison, but so easy to get them in. We need to stop the flow and there needs to be accountability," said Ferguson, adding that prosecutors and others in the justice system must be held accountable. "Helping innocent people and changing the justice system to make it better for the people is a lifelong goal. It might take forever to make a small change but I'm willing to dedicate my life to do that.
At the Black and Gold Tavern, the voices of cheer and merriment were louder than usual as they celebrated.
"I keep pinching myself every day and we're just thrilled and walking on clouds every day. My heart's just filled with gratitude," Leslie Ferguson said. "To see your child at the end of such an injustice is really heartbreaking as a parent."
She said if this could happen to her son, it could happen to anyone.
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