Even after he was freed from a life sentence in June after a DNA test proved he could not have raped and murdered a little girl in 1984, Kirk Noble Bloodsworth lived under a cloud.
That's because Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra O'Connor refused to pronounce him innocent -- she would only say he was not guilty.
But yesterday Gov. William Donald Schaefer lifted the cloud by granting the Cambridge waterman a full pardon in the murder of Dawn Venice Hamilton, 9, who was killed July 25, 1984.
"I'm a happy guy," Mr. Bloodsworth, 33, said from his home. "It's been a long haul. It's something I've been waiting for. I can't be more grateful to God, my father and Governor Schaefer."
The governor's office notified Mr. Bloodsworth and his lawyer, Robert E. Morin, yesterday morning. Mr. Bloodsworth, who is nursing a cold, said he was outside working on muskrat traps when the phone call came.
"It's a good Christmas present," Mr. Morin said. "This clarifies it. The state of Maryland has given him a complete and full pardon."
The pardon also makes it possible for Mr. Bloodsworth to get restitution from the State Board of Public Works for the nine years he spent in prison. Mr. Morin said he hopes for a "quick, fair" settlement, but does not have a specific dollar amount in mind.
Before issuing the pardon, Governor Schaefer said that he conferred with Baltimore County prosecutors, read trial transcripts, considered evidence and looked at the DNA test results.
"Based on the facts we have today, Mr. Bloodsworth was convicted in error," Mr. Schaefer said. "The prosecutor [Mrs. O'Connor] has advised me that if she had the evidence she has today she would not have tried him in this incident."
The victim was found in a wooded area near her home in the Fontana Village Apartments, across from Golden Ring Mall.
She had been sexually assaulted, and her underpants were discovered hanging in a tree near the body. The testing methods available in 1984 found no semen or blood on the underpants. But a new DNA test this year found trace amounts of semen that could not have come from Mr. Bloodsworth.
Based on that new evidence, Mr. Bloodsworth was released from prison in June. He had originally been convicted and sentenced to death. But the first conviction was overturned, and a second trial brought another conviction, this time with a life sentence.
Since his release, Baltimore County police say, they have been reinvestigating the case, but they refuse to discuss what steps they have taken to track down the real killer.
"We're doing a number of things," said E. Jay Miller, county police spokesman. "We just can't discuss publicly what we're doing."