By Alexandria Hoff

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Taron Hill was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 2004 shooting deaths of Robin Battie and Tinesha Lewis in Camden. He has been in prison ever since.

On Friday, his conviction was vacated and now, Hill is a free man.

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“From the beginning of this ordeal, I have proclaimed my innocence to any and everyone who would listen and it’s a travesty that it took 16-and-a-half years to get my life back,” Hill said.

Without the confines of prison walls, Hill was able to hug his daughter for the first time since she was 2 months old.

“Baby girl, we can’t get that time back but our entire future lies ahead of us,” he said.

The 34-year-old was released from New Jersey State Prison hours after a Camden County judge granted a request by the state Attorney General’s Office to vacate his 2004 murder conviction.

“There was evidence that he didn’t do it from the get-go. This was a case where a single witness came in and said the name of another person,” attorney Justin Bonus said.

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Hill’s attorney says the sole evidence against him was a single photo shown to a single witness and information that has since been recanted by two jailhouse informants.

His case was taken on by the Attorney General Office’s new Conviction Review Unit, and this marks the unit’s first exoneration.

“Sixteen years of prayer, 16 years and seven months of prayer is releasing my son,” said Cindy Hill, Taron’s mother.

In a statement, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal stated: “This is an important milestone for the Conviction Review Unit. We are committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system operates fairly and justly for all people.”

“I’m leaving a lot of innocent men behind so I’m not only challenging the Conviction Review Unit, but I’m challenging the entire justice system to get it right,” Hill said.

After spending nearly half his life in prison, Hill now plans to help others who were wrongfully convicted. On Wednesday, he turns 35.

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The families of Battie and Lewis were notified prior to the court hearing. A new investigation has been launched to find their killer.