JACKSONVILLE, FL—Henry "Hank" Doswell, 42, was released from his marriage Wednesday, after DNA tests conclusively proved his innocence in the July 1991 fathering of Spencer Doswell, the solitary charge that has kept him committed for 15 years.
Visibly moved to tears as his divorce lawyer read the test results, Doswell, who had been confined to a suburban housing facility after being wrongly wedded after allegedly impregnating then-girlfriend Karen Sanders, told reporters he was relieved to finally set his matrimonial record straight.
"Fifteen years, seven months, and two days," said Doswell, speaking to a group at the Red Room bar's Singles Night shortly after his release. "I always said they'd made a terrible mistake, that I did not deserve to be put away in the prime of my life, but no one believed me. If it hadn't been for this DNA test, I might have died in that monogamous relationship."
Though he feared he might never be able to break free of "the old ball and chain," Doswell always professed that being sentenced to a life of enforced fidelity was a "horrible injustice." But as each new anniversary seemed only to confirm his guilt, Doswell began to doubt he would ever be a free man again.
"From that first sleepless night in the Poconos, to the tense and terrifying baby showers, to my scheduled work in the yard, the only way I could get through it was by telling myself, 'I did nothing to deserve this. I don't belong in here with these people,'" said Doswell, who claimed monthly visits from family members only made his imprisonment more difficult to bear. "But after 15 years of listening to someone call you 'Daddy,' you start to believe it yourself."
Although it took place nearly two decades ago, Doswell said he remembers the events that led to his marriage term "like it was yesterday." After Sanders was discovered alone and pregnant in her apartment, there was an outcry to find the man responsible. During the course of the investigation, she named only Doswell. Despite his sworn testimony that he had no sexual contact with Sanders on the night in question, Doswell was tried in front of a group of Sanders' peers, who unanimously found him guilty after only a single two-hour brunch.
"The wedding ceremony was a farce," said Doswell, who recalled he was led out from city hall in French cuffs to an awaiting limousine. "The justice of the peace was ready to marry us the moment I walked in. He couldn't pronounce us man and wife fast enough."
Doswell, who admitted that he had fantasized about escaping "countless times," said he would like a public apology from those who were most vocal about his assumed guilt, especially the bride's father, Ralph Sanders, who reportedly paid off top-level wedding planners in exchange for a guarantee of swift nuptials.
In a statement released to the press, lawyers for the wrongfully espoused announced that they were seeking an immediate annulment as well as damages from the state in the amount of half of Doswell's net worth.
For his part, Doswell said he is "just glad to be out."
"I've made some choices I'm not proud of," said the newly liberated Doswell. "When you're in wedlock, you have to do things you never thought you would, make friends with people you would have never made friends with on the outside, shop at a Pottery Barn. But after wasting almost half my life on baptisms and birthday parties meant for some other man, I'm not about to take my single life for granted anymore."
"I can't believe I'm actually free," he added.