ROSEVILLE, Mich. (FOX 2) - It has been two years since Chad Lewis-Clay has been home. And the moment comes now, 90 minutes after walking out of prison.
"It's surreal, it's surreal. I can't believe," he said.
Moments ago, Chad made a phone call from prison - like he's done hundreds of times before. "But this one was come get me, I'm ready," said Ethel Lyons, his mother.
His conviction of rape was overturned, thanks in part to a picture of 16-year-old Clay and his baby brother, now all grown up.
Sixteen, that's how old Clay was, when the supposed rape happened. It was 1997 and the victim had a rape kit done - but it wasn't tested until 2015.
Clay's DNA was found. When he was questioned, he didn't remember the victim and she didn't remember him. Not until the trial did it even click with him, that the two had a brief relationship together about 20 years ago.
"My attorney told me that I would be incriminating myself if I was to take the stand and say that I know her as my girlfriend because she didn't recognize me," he said.
Clay's DNA would ultimately lead to a conviction of 25 to 50 years. While behind bars, he and his mom devoted their time to proving his innocence.
"I was going prove somehow, someway there is no way my son did this," Lyons said.
A private investigator and an investigative journalist went to the victim with a picture of 16-year-old Clay, jarring her memory and paving the way to clearing his name.
On the table in Clay's mother's home is what he calls his "innocent pack," papers upon papers of all the leg work he did in prison. Things really changed in his favor back in February when the alleged victim wrote a letter saying he was innocent of rape.
The letter made its way to the Wayne County Prosecutor and led to this family reunion.
"I want to thank her for the courage for fixing the wrong that was done to me," he said.
And in turn, Clay plans to help others wrongly convicted by starting a nonprofit. He's calling it Help Us Defend Us.