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Freedom: Dowaliby clings to family after release from

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David Dowaliby received a private embrace and a pinch from his wife,

Cynthia, before he emerged from prison Tuesday and was mobbed by media wanting

to catch his first thoughts as a free man.

"I feel good right now," David told reporters outside Stateville

Correctional Center near Joliet. "It's hard to believe I'm out. Just five

minutes ago, I was in the prison behind the bars, and here I am. It's going to

take a while to sink in."

David, 34, was freed on a $400,000 bond after the Illinois Supreme Court

ruled Monday he could go home with his family until the reversal of his murder

conviction - announced 12 days before - is appealed.

"There have been times in prison when I was actually calculating how old I

would be if I got out in 40 years and how old my children would be," said

David, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for strangling his 7-year-old

adopted daughter, Jaclyn, and concealing her homicide.

"It was an up and down situation," he said. "My family and friends

picked me up when I talked to them on the phone and told me to keep the faith.

So it paid off."

The governmental agency and financial institution closings Veterans Day

forced him to stay one more night at the prison he has lived in for 18 months

since he was convicted of first-degree murder May 3, 1990.

By 9 a.m. Tuesday, however, the former construction foreman, with a tearful

Cynthia gripping his hand tightly, talked about his plans to reunite their

family and reopen the investigation of their daughter's murder.

"The kids, I don't know what I'll say," David said. "My daughter and I have

a lot of catching up to do. My daughter knows I'm her daddy, but she doesn't

really consider me her father. She just knows my name is Daddy."

The couple said they planned to lay flowers at Jaclyn's grave Tuesday

afternoon and were then headed to an undisclosed location to begin their

celebration of freedom.

"I can feel Jaclyn with us right now," Cynthia said. "It's been a long

struggle, and I feel real good. I hope it all ends real soon."

Cynthia, 29, originally faced the same charges as her husband but was

acquitted midway through the trial by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard

Neville. Neville ruled there was not enough evidence to convict her.

Now the only obstacle they have left is Cook County State's Attorney Jack

O'Malley's appeal of the appellate court's decision, which has to be filed by

Dec. 18.

The Illinois Appellate Court overturned David's murder conviction Oct. 30,

ruling there wasn't enough evidence presented at the trial to "directly or

indirectly" link him to Jaclyn's death. His case should have never gone to a

jury, they said.

Four days after Jaclyn was reported missing, her body was found dumped in a

field in Blue Island with a rope wrapped around her neck.

The Dowalibys have maintained that their daughter was kidnapped and slain by

an intruder who entered their Midlothian home through a basement window.

The appellate court set David's bond Nov. 5, but prosecutors immediately

appealed it to the Illinois Supreme Court. Justice Michael Bilandic would not

release Dowaliby until the full court could hear the bond order Monday.

O'Malley said he plans to file his appeal soon and hopes the high court will

resolve the matter quickly.

"Given the disagreement between a 12-person jury, which convicted David

Dowaliby of murder, and a panel of appellate court judges who held that there

was insufficient evidence, it is appropriate that the matter be taken to the

Illinois Supreme Court," he said.

In the meantime, David is ready to have a "big, juicy steak" and return to

his job at Rax Erecting service in Crestwood.

He sounded confident he would not be returning to Stateville. "I have a

little fear inside me," he said, "but I'm confident I'm walking out of

here, and I'm not coming back."

The question that remains is who took Jaclyn away Sept. 10, 1988.

Police investigators believe they've already found the killer.

David and Cynthia plan to keep on searching.

"Today is not a day to be bitter or to look back," David said. "Maybe I will

be later on when it all sinks in."

"I can't convince the whole world I'm innocent," he said. "But I'm never

going to give up trying to find out who killed Jaclyn."

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