I-Team: Man Wrongly Convicted Tastes Freedom - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Man Wrongly Convicted Tastes Freedom

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Fred Steese and Lynn Smith. Fred Steese and Lynn Smith.

LAS VEGAS -- A man who spent more than 20 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit is sleeping in his own bed. Fred Steese was released from prison last month and is now adjusting to life on the outside.

He is now living in California after spending 20 years of his life behind bars. In 1995, a jury convicted him of the murder of a Las Vegas Strip entertainer. It wasn't until late 2012 that new evidence convinced a judge Steese was actually innocent.

Despite all that, Steese is finding peace and figuring out who he is outside prison walls. Lynn Smith has spent 49 years, five hours, 24 minutes and counting. She waited a long time to see her baby brother walk out of prison.

"I have a notification in my purse from his birth that our mom sent my adopted mom," Smith said.

The foster care system separated Lynn and her siblings as children. But six years ago, her older sister found her and her brother Fred. 

"I seen him once in court and kind of waved, but other than that, I've never met him," she said.

A prison sentence for a murder -- a judge now says Steese didn't commit -- delayed their reunion.

"This is it, this is what he's been waiting for, what we've been waiting for," Smith said.

After more than 24 years behind bars, freedom for Fred Steese begins in McCarran International Airport's baggage claim with his sister waiting. 

"There he is, there he is. Come here you."

A handful of his supporters, like his prison pastor and his attorneys, celebrate his release.

Home for Steese is now Smith's home; a modest ranch house in rural Lucerne Valley, California.

"I'm doing just fine," Stesse said. "I call it my little miracle that I'm here."

In many ways, time froze for Steese when he went to prison in 1995.

"There's nothing the same. Everything's different. Mainly technology. Cell phones, computers," he said.

With his sister's help, he is joining the digital revolution. He's found Facebook, but his primary focus is his online job search.

"I got training. I got 15 years of welding experience, fabrication, auto body repair. Fork lift operator. I figure sooner or later, somebody will give me a shot," he said.

That patience, born of prison, is one of many virtues he's teaching his sister.

"I'm amazed and I'm so proud of him because he's still so positive and so energetic, and it helps me to be positive," Smith said.

Fred would rather move forward than look back.

"I didn't make it a negative. I made it a positive as much as I could. You know I learned a trade, I worked most of the time I was there. I found Jesus in prison. I'm more blessed than most. There's a lot of lost souls getting out of prison everyday," he said.

Fred considers himself found with Lynn and her husband Owen. After years of feeling alone in the confines of a crowded prison, he now has the two things he's always wanted -- his freedom and his family.

"I'm just so happy to be out. Be with my sister and what family I got left. I want to spend the rest of my life with them," he said.

 

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