Free after 11 years, life begins anew for Jody Ard

Published: Aug. 1, 2012 at 9:32 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2012 at 9:32 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Jody Ard's first steps outside the Lexington County Detention Center after 11 years on death row were obviously emotional ones.

"There ain't no words for it," Ard said. "I just want to go see my momma. It's been so long."

Those emotions were different from those Ard displayed in 1996 when a jury convicted him of murder in the death of his 17-year-old girlfriend, Madalyn Coffey, and their unborn son, Jeremy.  His attorney describes his mood as shell shocked as he spent time with his family.

It's that family that will now be his support system.

"I think in order for him to succeed, he's going to have to deal with the deaths, deal with what it's done to him, and deal with what he's done himself being behind bars for so long," said Ard's attorney, Aimee Zmroczek.

She's not required to, but Zmroczek made some calls to mental health. She uses the term "institutionalized" and believes Ard has a long way to go.

"He told me one of the funniest things is going to be to turn the shower on, and you never know in the jail if it's hot of cold or what's going to come out, and to have some sort of control it's going to be unusual to him," Zmroczek said.

Just like his question walking out of jail.

"He said, 'Can I walk on the grass' and I said, 'Jody, you can do whatever you want,'" Zmroczek said.

Ard told her the life he was living before was wrong, but now he's been given the opportunity to correct it.

"There's also the chance that he just messes up so he can get back to that safe environment," Zmroczek said. "None of us want that to happen. He certainly doesn't want to go back, and there's always the possibility that he can't handle it and does something to harm himself."

Ard's got a long list of things to do, like getting his driver's license, Social Security card, and more, but he'll take it one day at a time for now.

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