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December 31, 2015 -- William "Ricky" Virgil was convicted of murdering Retha Welch in 1987.

A jury found him guilty of the murder in 1988. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

28 years later Virgil is free on bond.

Virgil was released on a $15,000 cash bond after The Kentucky Innocence Project took up his case.

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William "Ricky" Virgil is free on bond after more than 28 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit.

"I really ain't gathered it all in yet," 63-year-old told The Kentucky Enquirer ( as he walked out of the Campbell County jail on Thursday. "I feel probably like being beamed up."

The Cincinnati man was charged in 1987 with the murder of Retha Welch, a Veterans Administration minister and nurse from Newport.

Virgil refused a plea agreement because he said he was innocent, but a jury found him guilty in 1988 and he was sentenced to 70 years.

The Kentucky Innocence Project took up Virgil's case in 2010. Its investigation showed DNA evidence, including hair and blood, was not connected to Virgil or the victim.

Kentucky Innocence Project Director Linda Smith made the case that Virgil was convicted purely on circumstantial evidence. Last Friday, Campbell County Judge Fred Stine ruled Virgil could have a new trial.

Virgil was released on a $15,000 cash bond with certain restrictions, like a monitoring bracelet.

Kentucky Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Adam Hill had asked for a $1 million bond, arguing the DNA evidence doesn't exonerate Virgil but shows that someone else was present. A pretrial hearing in Virgil's new murder trial has been set for March.

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