Kevin Strickland spent his first hours of freedom after four decades in prison at his mother's gravesite after a judge on Tuesday overturned his 1979 conviction for a triple murder.
"I revisited those tears that I had when they told me I was convicted of a crime I didn't commit," said Strickland. "It was a lot of stuff that came out. I talked to her for a minute. I believe she could feel me, hear me, I do."
Strickland's mother died shortly after Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker filed a motion this summer to vacate Strickland’s conviction. A judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of the motion, saying Strickland should go free. The Missouri attorney general's office opposed the motion for months, arguing Strickland’s conviction should stand.
"Delay after delay after delay," said Midwest Innocence Project Executive Director Tricia Rojo Bushnell. "So that's what it is. That's why Mr. Strickland didn't get to be with his mother when she passed."
After Strickland visited the gravesite, he said he had a big meal at a nice Kansas City restaurant. He said he spent the night in a home but did not get great sleep, hearing every creak of the house.
"I was kind of afraid," he said. "I thought somebody was coming to get me. I mean some stuff that you probably wouldn't think I was thinking but, yeah, I wasn't comfortable."
Strickland made the comments during a live interview with CNN Wednesday morning. Strickland said he now plans to get out of Missouri and visit an ocean.
"God created a big deal there when he put all that water out there," Strickland said. "I need to get out there and see if I can ride a Great White or something like that."
Strickland also said he is hoping to get medical help to get out of his wheelchair.
"I want to feel the power, the water," he said. "You know, at 62 I believe I could surf if they get me out of this chair."
Strickland thanked his supporters, including those supporting a GoFundMe Page. The page raised more than $350,000 in the 24 hours since he got out of prison.