3 decades. Gone.
Raymond Towler spent 29 years behind bars, only to ultimately be exonerated.
Since his first taste of freedom in 2010, he has spent no time being bitter.
Too much good stuff to do.
This is a man who will turn 60 in a couple weeks.
A good man who spent HALF of those years behind bars.
Locked up for a crime he didn't commit.
Locked up not long after he served honorably in the U.S. Army..
The story of his release is not new, but what Raymond has been doing since, is. It's impressive, this example, set by a man rooted in forgiveness, faith and gratitude.
May 1981. Raymond Towler didn't see it coming.
"Cleveland police knocked on my door with a warrant for my arrest for rape," says Towler.
September 1981, Towler is convicted. Life in prison.
He ended up spending 29 years behind prison walls for a crime he didn't commit.
“It seemed like it would never end,” said Towler.
But on May 5, 2010 it did.
A judge ruled whoever had raped that 12 year old girl in the Metro Parks in Fairview Park, “was clearly not Raymond
New DNA evidence and the help of determined Ohio Innocence Project Attorneys were Towler's ticket out.
“I just kept feeding myself hope and believing too," says Towler.
Towler took to painting to pass the time. A talented artist began to blossom from behind prison walls.
Towler's painting called "BLUE MAN" is a “strong guy no matter what emotions he was feeling,” says Towler.
That strong guy hoisting the American flag is Towler. He was just 17-years-old when he joined the Army in the Vietnam era.
"That was my life that I was prepared to give."
He is blue in the picture for the injustice that did cost him 29 years of his life but the flag flies because THIS GUY is, "A guy who still believed in his country. I’m still a patriot."
This patriot, standing on faith, still.
"You know god looked out for me," Towler says.
Towler never lost hope, not even in the system that had failed him.
"I didn't take it personally,” Towler laughs, “I looked at it as a mistake of course."
So Raymond Towler has a new role in his purpose driven life.
"I really want to help people who are lost. Not just because they are in prison, but because they need to hear there IS a reason for them to keep going,” says Towler.
Towler also now sits ON the Ohio Innocence Project's Board!
"I am kind of here as the voice of the exonerees. You're fighting for your name and your freedom at the same time. It's a really dark cloud to have over your head," Towler says from experience.
Now Towler is making a name for himself with music. He sings and plays guitar in the Innocence Project’s exoneree band.
As for bitterness?
“Aint nobody got time for that! I am free now and I have an opportunity to live the life that I have. I found out a long time ago that it's a choice that you have to be happy or sad. You know know, no matter what's going around. I’m not saying it's easy to do but everyone can do it," says Towler.