DETROIT (WJBK) - A 23-year-old man locked up for nearly nine years thanked the Detroit community for its outpouring of support Sunday.
Devontae Sanford was 15 years old when he pleaded guilty to four murders and was imprisoned in 2008. He left early June, after a judge erased the guilty pleas at the request of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy.
A luncheon was held at Hope Community Church so he could thank everyone for their help along the way.
"Knowing I've got all this support behind me now after going through so much -- it's a good thing," he said.
Sanford has been freed from prison a little more than two weeks and is already using his platform to promote a better future for Detroit's youth.
"A lot of people say we invest in the future of Detroit by opening up this business or that -- but invest in the kids first," he said. "They're really the future of Detroit."
Sanford takes advantage of every opportunity to talk about his fight for justice at schools, churches, peace rallies, and even a Michigan state police at-risk youth event.
"(I) talk to the kids, try to mentor the kids to the best of my ability," he said.
Sanford was wrongfully convicted of a quadruple murder at a drug house and had to spend the last eight years of his life behind bars at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia. He served time, even though a hit man confessed to the murders just weeks after Sanford's conviction.
"Our family was going through so much," he said.
Between his work, Sanford is also making time to catch up with his family.
"I never got a chance to see my nephew -- he's 5 years old now ... Seeing how far my sisters have come. My one sister -- she's about to get married," he said.
He took the time to thank friends, family and even strangers who supported him in his fight.
"I appreciate all the support I've been getting. Not only from Detroit but from all over the world -- it means a lot," Sanford said.
While trying to emphasize the importance of education, he's also trying to catch up on school himself. He'd eventually like to make a career out of public service of some time for the City of Detroit.