Lynchburg, VA - Back on U.S. soil, after being locked up overseas and in limbo for months not knowing if he'd ever make it home.
When 33 year old Lynchburg native, Sherman Hughes' condo burned to the ground, his rental company blamed him. In the Dominican Republic, there was no intense investigation; Hughes was automatically blamed for a fire he says he did not start.
In the end he proved his innocence, and made his way more than 1,400 miles back home.
Four months later, it was a homecoming like never before.
"A feeling of relief; I knew how stressed they were every day calling me and me calling" said Hughes.
Hughes is back, following an overseas saga that landed him in jail; even put him through the Dominican Republic judicial system.
"Victory of the fact that I did not give up throughout this process; I stood fast and showed my face in front of the Dominican judicial system" he said.
Hughes's condo was destroyed by a fire that he says he was framed for. It took months of persuasion from his lawyer, discussions with the U.S. embassy, and more than $6,000 to clear his name, and have him approved for the release to return state-side.
"Friends, people we hadn't seen since Sherman was little coming back, calling, just dropping off checks left and right" said his Mom, Karen Hughes.
Hughes's parents, Karen and Abe, fueled the fundraising that got their son home. With the help of their church, Court Street Baptist, they raised more than $5,000 to go towards what the judge called, "restitution payments."
"It was a load lifted off my heart" said Karen.
Hughes, a teacher, initially went to the Dominican Republic to start an exchange program. He said despite his plight, he has plans to one day return.
"As I tell all my students as an educator, you can't allow a situation to deter your dreams, you have to keep moving forward" he said.
Hughes said the process to clear his name took more than three months. It was literally lost in translation; he said documents in the Dominican Republic are not electronic and take far longer to process than in the U.S.
At the start of his case, Hughes could have faced 30 years in prison for arson.