Mike Anderson spent 13 years free from prison due entirely to a clerical error, then nearly a year behind bars after the mistake was finally caught.
Monday, he was set free, with no need to look over his shoulder anymore.
Cornealious "Mike" Anderson was freed by associate circuit judge Terry Lynn Brown, who gave the 37-year-old credit for 4,794 days of time served.
That was the span between his conviction and his arrest last year.
A "very happy" Anderson left the courthouse with his wife and 3-year-old daughter on one arm, his grandmother on the other, tears in all of their eyes.
"My faith has always been in God. I'm just so thankful. I just thank God for everybody," said Anderson, who was 23 when he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
His role in the robbery of a fast-food restaurant's assistant manager earned him that sentence, after which he waited, and even asked about going to prison.
The order never came. He didn't flee, but he went about his life.
Anderson started his own construction-related businesses, married and had children. He also coached youth football and volunteered at his church in Missouri.
At the hearing Monday, Anderson's attorney, Patrick Megaro, said Anderson remained out of prison through no fault of his own, and turned his life around.
Anderson "has been able to accomplish for himself what the criminal justice system does not accomplish in many situations," Megaro told the judge.
Brown agreed, pointing out that Anderson's crime was serious, but acknowledged that he's a far, far different man now than he was 14 years ago:
"You've been a good father, a good husband, a good taxpaying citizen of the state of Missouri. That leads me to believe that you are a good man and a changed man."
As the judge announced his decision to free him immediately, about 10 of Anderson's relatives broke out in sobs and cried. Some hugged and thanked God.
The release was met with virtually no resistance from the state.
Attorney general Chris Koster said in a statement Monday:
"From the outset, I have proposed a solution that balances the seriousness of Mr. Anderson's crime with the mistake made by the criminal justice system.
"Given Mr. Anderson's lack of a criminal record over the past 13 years, today's outcome appears to appropriately balance the facts as we understand them."
The judge said that rather than parole, Anderson would get credit for the entirety of the time he should have been in prison. He is free, no strings attached.
So what the heck happened?
Anderson was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the holdup, then told to wait for orders that would specify when and where he was to report to prison.
The orders never came. Anderson suspected his case had been overlooked and asked his former attorney what to do. He decided to just sit tight.
The mistake happened when a trial court clerk failed to inform the Missouri Supreme Court that Anderson was free on bond after his initial conviction.
"Day by day, month by month, year by year, time passed, and they never picked me up," he said in an interview last month with the Associated Press.
So Anderson went about his life, never trying to conceal anything. He married, divorced, married again. He raised three children of his own and a stepchild.
He has owned and operated three construction businesses. He coached his son's youth football team, and he ran the video operation at his church.
Last July, Anderson's sentence was supposed to end, and it was only then that someone at the Missouri Department of Corrections realized it never began.
Eight U.S. marshals arrived one morning at his home in a middle-class neighborhood and took him away. He was in prison by noon that day until yesterday.
"Go home to your family, Mr. Anderson," Brown said after his ruling.