He was freed through the efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project, based out of the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Towler will be the longest serving wrongfully incarcerated inmate to be released in Ohio history, and one of the longest in United States history.
He was released after a hearing Wednesday at the Justice Center in Cleveland.
"They had the wrong person, you know, and it took them a while to straighten it out," Towler said, as he embraced family members in the courtroom.
"All I care about now is they did straighten it out and I can go on with my life."
Towler walked to freedom escorted by lawyers from the Ohio Innocence Project, which has helped free 10 wrongly convicted prisoners since its founding in 2003.
DNA testing completed Monday conclusively proved that Towler did not commit the crime.
"It was DNA that spoke for Raymond Towler and it was DNA that allowed justice to be served today," said Carrie Wood, lawyer for the Ohio Innocence Project.
"DNA testing is the one thing that has no bias. It has no memory problem. It speaks loudly and clearly and that's the thing we fight for every day."
Towler, who is now 53 years old, was convicted to a sentence of life in prison on Sept. 18, 1981.
According to police and Metroparks rangers reports, in May 1981, the victim and her 13-year-old cousin were walking their bicycles in the Rocky River Reservation of Cleveland Metroparks.
The suspect lured them behind some bushes by asking them to help with an injured deer. He then pulled a gun and forced the boy to watch the rape, police said.
Towler left the Justice Center with family members and, after stopping for a pizza, tried to relax at the home of a relative.
"I'm keeping an open mind," he said, of his efforts to begin adjusting to life as a free man after nearly 30 years in prison.
"I'm taking suggestions, but it's going to be a learning experience. It's not just the (Cleveland) skyline that's different. I can tell you that from the first day."
The Cleveland Towler left in 1981 looked much different to him today.
"When I drove in the city, I didn't even recognize it," he admitted. "I recognized the Terminal Tower but it was kind of superimposed on another building."
Towler, a painter and a musician, said he had only read about certain advances in technology, such as the pervasive use of cell phones.
"At one point during our pizza dinner, everybody had their cell phones out, and I was telling everybody that if somebody wasn't taking a picture with a cell phone, they were texting, and one was talking, and another was ringing," he said, with some wonder.
Towler's brother, Clarence Settles, said, "Two things helped sustain him to this point -- his strength of character and his belief in God."
His sister, Priscilla Drake, "It has been hard, hard. But he stayed strong. He stayed strong on his own."
Members of the Ohio Innocence Project, who have been working on Towler's case since 2004, were in attendance when Towler was released, as were attorneys who represented Towler from the law firms of Jones Day and Berkman, Gordon, Murray & DeVan.
In a statement released by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, he said his office received testing results (Tuesday) morning that "indicate Raymond Towler is not the individual who raped an 11-year-old girl in the Cleveland Metroparks in 1981."
Upon receiving the results, Mason's office immediately contacted the Innocence Project, which has represented Towler in his application for DNA testing.
The prosecutor's office has worked with the defense to attain testing and both asked the court to immediately vacate Towler's conviction and release him from prison.
The prosecutor's office is also contacting the testing facility to arrange for additional testing of crime scene evidence to determine the identity of the rapist.