Exclusive: Ariz. man reflects on freedom after decades in prison

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Bill Macumber’s three children missed out on a lot of time with their dad.

For most of their lives he was serving prison time for the murders of a young couple in 1962, despite another man's confession to the killings.

"I did not kill those people," said Bill Macumber in a 3TV exclusive interview in New Mexico.

He went on to tell 3TV’s Crystal Cruz, "I did not know them to my knowledge. How then did my fingerprints happen to get on that car? How then were those shell casings from my automatic? Who would have had the motive to do something like that? Who would have had the opportunity and skills and expertise to accomplish it? When you examine that Crystal the answer is pretty obvious."

The answer for Macumber is his ex-wife, Carol Kempfert.

During their divorce, Kempfert worked for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, where Macumber believes she tampered with evidence.

Kempfert even told deputies her husband admitted to the killings and eventually the 39-year-old was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

For several mornings when I woke up I was waiting to hear the metal door at the end of the dorm open. Because they (prison guards) came in to wake us up. I found myself waiting for that door to click and realizing it wasn't going to.

- Bill Macumber on freedom

Today Macumber is a 77-year-old great grandfather and a free man.

"I’ve been asked the question many times what would I do if I met Carol face to face? and the answer to that is absolutely nothing. Why? Not for any other reason than because she is still the mother of my children. She is an evil person and extremely evil person," declared Macumber.

Kempfert has denied any wrongdoing.

As far as Macumber is concerned, he's now looking towards the future and plans on spending most of his time in New Mexico and Colorado taking in the scenery.

He is thankful for his freedom and the non-profit, the Arizona Justice Project, who helped free him from prison.

In his bedroom he keeps a letter written to him in prison by a mother of one of his attorneys.

Part of it reads, ‘You have a profound influence on Katie and we are so grateful for your time with her.’

Near the letter is a picture of Macumber and Katie Puzauskas, 29. She is a co-director and case coordinator for the Arizona Justice Project.

Macumber told 3TV Puzauskas and the Arizona Justice Project are like his second family.

Puzauskas spent four years worrying about her client and now friend.

She still calls every now and then to just say hi.

"I just like to know how he's doing. I hope he goes on and does well," said Puzauskas.

Part 2 - Clemency denied, freedom delayed
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The Arizona Justice Project spent more than a decade working on Macumber’s case.

They thought he would get his freedom in 2009 when the clemency board requested his release. Gov. Jan Brewer denied the request.

"It was very difficult for all of us to go through something like that. But we recharged ourselves and tried to use our energy in a positive way," said Puzauskas.

Eventually Macumber pleaded no contest to second degree murder charges in exchange for his freedom in 2012.

When asked if he thought he would ever get out of prison he said, "No. I pretty much made up my mind that I would die there. I was willing to do that because I wasn't going to change," said Macumber.

He said he would never plead guilty and would rather stay in prison than admit to something he says he didn't do, murder the couple.

In November, with his son Ronald by his side, Macumber left prison for good.

"For several mornings when I woke up I was waiting to hear the metal door at the end of the dorm open. Because they (prison guards) came in to wake us up. I found myself waiting for that door to click and realizing it wasn't going to," said Macumber.

No longer locked away, he's enjoying his family.

For the first time in nearly four decades, he's gotten to do something at Christmas most of us do every year.

He said, "Watching my grand children and great grand children opening their presents because I haven't seen that since 1974 with my own children. I thoroughly enjoyed that and the whole family being together. It was really great, it was really great."

With the passing of decades, a lot of things have changed since he was sentenced to life in prison.

"The dress today bothers me somewhat because if I were to say in a word, it looks sloppy ok," he said.

And of course the stores have changed a lot.

"I walked into my first Wal-Mart and I thought Lord this is bigger than anything I saw in my life."

Some of the outside world makes him laugh.

"The only thing that doesn't change is you still have people running down the street with loud mufflers," he chuckles and then said "and that will probably never change."

Even at 77-years-old he still enjoys the frigid 20 degree temperatures and the snow in New Mexico.

He's hopeful his story can make a difference.

"I'm going to work to bring some attention to the old elderly inmates who are no more a threat to society than you know a bird and you know get them out," said Macumber.

He suffers from several health problems and knows there’s a short window of time left to share his story.

When asked if it bothers him that some people will still call him a murderer, Macumber replied, "No, don't bother me at all. We have many types of people in this world Crystal. We have people that are willing to accept reality, we have people that are willing to deny reality and we have people that will change and we have people that will never change. The evidence is out there."

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barry Siegel has written a book about Macumber's life and the murders.

The "Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom" will be released Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.

Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom

Man imprisoned in Ariz. murders pleads no contest, released after 37 years