A former California inmate wrongly imprisoned for nearly 40 years says it was the "worst nightmare" and that even nearly $2 million in state compensation granted on Thursday can't make up for his lost time. The California Victims Compensation Board granted 70-year-old Craig Richard Coley $140 for each of the 13,991 days he spent in prison before he was pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown before Thanksgiving, per the AP. Coley spent 39 years behind bars after he was wrongly convicted of killing his former girlfriend, 24-year-old Rhonda Wicht of Simi Valley, and her 4-year-old son in 1978. Simi Valley's police chief and Ventura County's district attorney asked Brown to pardon him because forensic tests showed Coley's DNA was not on the victim's bedsheet, which did contain DNA from an unknown man.
Coley had an alibi for the time of the slayings and investigators later disproved testimony from an eyewitness who placed him at the scene. "It's probably the worst nightmare I can ever think of," Coley said of his false imprisonment at age 31. His parents died while he was in prison after mortgaging their home to pay his legal bills and he missed out on marrying or rearing children. "It's going to make my life comfortable for the rest of my life," Coley said after the board approved his claim for $1,958,740. "How much would you say would be the right amount of money to pay for 40 years they take of your life? ... You can't put a price on your freedom." Coley, who spent three tours in Vietnam aboard an aircraft carrier, said he now plans to help homeless veterans.