GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - He's been in prison for nearly a decade for a murder he says he didn't commit and on Tuesday, Mark Carver walked out of the Gaston County Jail after posting bond.
There were cheers and hugs when Carver walked out of jail Tuesday evening.
He was met by family members and his new attorney Chris Mumma, with the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, who has been fighting for his freedom.
"I know I didn't do nothing. I'm innocent," Carver told Channel 9's Gaston County reporter Ken Lemon, who has been following this case for 11 years.
"What's the first thing you're going to do now that you're free?" Lemon asked. "Go see my grandbaby," Carver said.
(Watch Carver's release in the below video)
Last week, a judge ordered a new trial in the case, citing several significant mistakes made by Carver's original attorney during his trial, including critical evidence that was never shown to the jury.
Carver and his cousin, Neal Cassada, were fishing near an area where UNC Charlotte student Ira Yarmolenko's body was found on the banks of the Catawba River in 2008.
Investigators said she was strangled and her body was found next to her car. Both men were charged with murder.
Cassada died the day before his trial.
The judge reviewing the case said Carver’s trial attorney didn’t consider Carver’s low IQ and carpal tunnel syndrome.
"It's been hard. It's been tough," Carver said.
Channel 9 is told a man who was exonerated of rape after serious questions about DNA posted Carver’s $100,000 bond.
"I thank him. I appreciate it. He knows what I've been through," Carver said.
Carver is required to wear an ankle monitor.
The district attorney has said Carver is the prosecution's only living suspect, and he is working on an appeal to have Carver's conviction upheld. If that doesn’t happen, he said he will retry the case.
Mumma said they plan to continue to fight to prove Carver's innocence and believes the focus needs to shift to new suspects in the case.
"He needs to be proven innocent, and we're going to fight it all the way up to the Governor's Office to make sure he's proven innocent," Mumma said. "And again, the attention needs to get away from Mark and onto, who is the real murderer in this case?"
When Lemon asked Carver about a new trial and the future fight in court, Carver said, "Just take it one step at a time. That's all I can do. One day at a time."
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