California man now free after DNA leads to new arrest in 1985 murder: "I miss this beautiful country"

Wrongfully convicted man walks free
Wrongfully convicted man walks free 03:10

A California man said he was "just glad to be out," after spending 15 years behind bars for a murder he maintains he never committed. Ricky Davis was exonerated and set free on Thursday after his conviction was overturned thanks to new DNA evidence and help from the Northern California Innocence Project. He spoke to CBS News' Denise Poon exclusively just after his release from prison.

Davis was sentenced to 16 years to life in 2005 for the 1985 murder of 54-year-old newspaper columnist Jane Hylton. She had been found stabbed 29 times inside the home she shared with her teenage daughter, Davis, and Davis' then-girlfriend.

The Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office credits investigative genetic genealogy as the reason they were able to re-try the case. New technology that was not available at the time of Davis' conviction found male DNA on the victim's nightgown and under her fingernails that was not his.

The investigative team built a family tree that led them to a new suspect, 51-year-old Michael Green, now in police custody. Authorities said Green was one of three teenagers who were with Hylton's daughter on the night of the murder. She is not considered a suspect, and helped officials identify Green.

Ricky Davis  CBS News

Now, Davis has been able to reunite with his family and even shared a pizza with his loved ones and the legal team that helped exonerate him.

"They're angels. They really are. And they literally came into my life when I really needed them, more than anything in the world," he said about his legal team.

"I've known Ricky for almost 10 years, working on his case, he's seen me through two children," said Melissa O'Connell, one of the Northern California Innocence Project's attorneys.

Speaking just after his release, Davis said he "missed so many things I can't even tell you."

"I've forgotten more things than I even remember," he said. "I miss this beautiful country. I miss the trees. I miss everything. I miss fresh air. You know you can never make up for it. I realize that you just pick up the pieces and move forward, and make the best of what's left."