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18 Years Later, L.I. Man Who Says He Was Wrongly Convicted Leaves Prison

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- There was an emotional homecoming Thursday for a Long Island man who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit. While on vacation with his wife in Vermont, she was brutally murdered and the crime was pinned on him.

However, his freedom may be temporary, CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

On his first full day of freedom after nearly two decades behind bars John Grega said he watched the sunrise.

"It's nice to be home. I walked around the block at 5 o'clock this morning. I got back and jumped in my mom's pool," John Grega said.

His life sentence was thrown out Tuesday because of DNA evidence not available back in 1994. That's when his 31-year-old wife, Christine, was raped and murdered. The couple and their 2-year-old son were vacationing in Vermont. She was found dead in the bathtub.

It was a crime Grega always said he didn't commit. He said that he was at a playground with his son at the time of the murder, but he made conflicting statements. The former NASA contractor was sentenced to life without parole.

"I lived with character for 18 years in prison and I wanted my family to always be proud of me," Grega said.

His conviction was overturned after recently tested DNA from his wife's body was found not to have come from him, but from an unknown man. Grega was released in Vermont and woke up to hugs from neighbors and relatives.

But his legal battles aren't over. Prosecutors said they'll retry him for murder.

"I just know and the whole family has known he is innocent, so I just have to hope justice will prevail," Marion Grega said.

So, for now, John Grega is free only on bail, living with his mother in Ronkonkoma. His cell phone is vintage 1990s, as is his clothing, but he said he plans to catch up on all he's missed.

"Meet people. Nieces have been born since I'm in prison. I'm just looking forward to spending time with everybody," John Grega said.

"It's like a dream. I just think it's like a dream that he's here," Marion Grega added.

John Grega's son is now 20 years old. He told CBS 2's Gusoff neither he nor his mother's family will comment on his father's freedom.

John Grega was the first person ever to be sentenced in Vermont to life in prison without parole. No date has been set yet on his new murder trial.

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