COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Arthur Tyler was supposed to die later this month, but Gov. John Kasich spared his life, commuting his sentence to life in prison without parole. The Ohio Parole Board had made the rare recommendation that instead of being executed, Tyler be freed on parole.

"He took me from going home, or possibly going home, to life without parole. And I didn’t understand that because the parole board ruled to basically free me,” Tyler said in an interview with Marc Kovac, Statehouse bureau chief for Dix Newspapers and the Youngstown Vindicator, shared with Statehouse reporters. 

Tyler described the decision as "devastating" and says he still holds out hope that he'll some day be released.

He was put on death row for killing Sander Leach, a vegetable merchant in Cleveland, back in 1983. He has spent the last 31 years waiting to be put to death. Now he's in the general population at the Trumbull Correctional Institution near Warren. It's something he called "surreal."

Tyler told Kovac that he didn't kill Leach. He blamed Leroy Head, who initially confessed to the crime, but struck a deal with prosecutors that had him testify that Tyler pulled the trigger. Head was released from prison in 2008 after serving a 25 year term.

The current prosecutor agreed that Tyler should be spared lethal injection because of questions about his conviction, though they maintain he fatally shot Leach.

In the interview, Tyler denied killing Leach, instead pointing the finger at co-defendant Leroy Head. Head initially confessed to killing Leach, but later cut a deal with the Cuyahoga County prosecutor in which he testified that Tyler was the shooter. Head was released from prison six years ago after 25 years.

Kovac asked Tyler if he had any message for Leach's family.

"This all went wrong. I didn’t kill your daddy. I’m not his murderer. The boy that murdered him is out there on the street right now.” 

 (Photo courtesy Ohio Dept of Rehabilitation and Corrections)