Two days before Richard Clay's set execution, Gov. Jay Nixon commuted Clay's sentence to life without the possibility of parole Monday.
In a prepared statement, Gov. Nixon said he is sure of Clay's involvement in the murder of Randy Martindale and "evidence clearly supports the jury's verdict of murder in the first degree."
Attorney General Chris Koster issued a statement on the governor's decision later in the day, saying, "These are difficult decisions constitutionally vested with the Governor of our state, I am confident that Governor Nixon gave this case careful consideration and I respect his decision."
The halting of the execution comes after Clay's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, filed a preliminary clemency petition Friday. Herndon, along with Clay's son, Kiefer Clay; his sister, Sandra O'Lexi; and friend of the late Randy Martindale, Raburn Evans, were all present at a meeting with the governor Friday.
"It was clear to me that the office of the governor was taking (the case) seriously," Herndon said. "It gave me more hope."
Herndon told Clay about the governor's decision on the phone.
"His first reaction was disbelief, but obviously he was thrilled," Herndon said. "He kept making references to how wonderful God was."
Clay was preparing for a visit with his parents when he received Herndon's call, and many members of his family were on their way to see him as well.
Family and friends of Clay were emotional about the news.
"We can't be more excited for him," O'Lexi said. "He got his life back."
Evans said he was positive that if Clay were granted a retrial he would not be found guilty. In reference to Clay's sentence being commuted, Evans said the news was "the best thing that has happened to him since his granddaughter was born."
Herndon said the government did exactly what they asked and they will file a petition to the Missouri Supreme Court for a new trial when they conclude their investigation.