Johnny Small celebrates a ‘day that would never come’

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover District Attorney Ben David announced Thursday that Johnny Small was dismissed from his 1988 murder charge. This comes after that there was insufficient evidence to retry him for the murder of Pamela Dreher.

It was an emotional morning as a rally was held Friday at the New Hanover County Courthouse in Wilmington in celebration of Small becoming a free man.

“I’ve been in a cage for 28 years so yeah, it’s going to take a little time to get use to,” Small said.

Family and friends were there holding signs in support of Small. There were hugs and tears as everyone reunited.

“I never would expect so many people to get behind me like that,” Small said.

The moment he was cut free Thursday night, he visited his grandparent’s grave. He described the experience as overwhelming.

For a man who has spent the majority of his life behind bars, he says he looks forward to living a normal life.

“There’s no way to describe that,” Small said. “No word to ever describe that. You just don’t know what it’s like up in there.”

He has plans to get a job and move on.

Small thanks Chris Mumma, the NC Center on Actual Innocence Director who began investigating his case in 2012, for never giving up.

“Nobody else believed me, but she did,” Small said.

Mumma said the job is not done yet.

“Our job goes to helping them get a drivers license, and help them not be afraid to chose when they open up a refrigerator on what to eat,” Mumma said. “The damage that it does to someone who is prison for something they didn’t do is much greater than what happens to someone who is prison for something they did do.”

With Small exonerated, he says he hopes the victim’s family finds closure and the person responsible for the murder of Pamela Dreher is found.

“My heart has always gone out to them,” Small said. “I mean who ever did it, I hope they find them.”

He says he is grateful for a day he never thought would come.

“Don’t ever get up,” Small said. “When you give up hope, you lose.”

He says he will need some counseling to get over what he’s been through.

Mumma said she intends to request a pardon for small from Gov. Pat McCrory.



Categories: Local, New Hanover

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