The day that Earnest Leap didn’t think would ever happen, did happen on Friday. After more than 20 years on the sex offender registry, Governor Jay Nixon (D) pardoned Leap. With the help of Representatives Jim Neely (R-Cameron) and Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi), dozens of state lawmakers signed off this year in support of granting Leap a pardon.

Photo courtesy of KMIZ-TV in Columbia

Photo courtesy of KMIZ-TV in Columbia

Nixon’s office called him Friday, several times in fact, to share the news with Leap. Leap was sound asleep and didn’t hear the phone ring. He eventually woke up and received the life-changing phone call.

During an interview with Missourinet, Leap tried to fight back the tears.

“I have people calling me I haven’t talked to for years, saying congratulations before I even got the pardon and all saying they knew I was innocent,” said Leap.

Leap’s son, Brodie, has maintained for years that his mother pressured him to say he was molested by his father. The couple was in the midst of a custody court battle involving their two young boys at the time.

Leap pled no contest with the promise that the record would be removed in three years, but in 1994 a federal law formed public sex offender registries and Leap was added.

Leap says he never blamed Brodie and knew that his son was coerced.

“He didn’t realize I had to register. He didn’t realize a lot of those things because that’s not what, as an adult and father, that I do. When he found out about it, he was really upset,” says Leap. “He didn’t realize it continued on and on. He has contacted a lot of people saying he wanted this corrected.”

Leap lives in the northwest Missouri town of Oakview. His home sits 990 feet from a church and school, which is 10 feet within the boundaries that a sex offender can live.

“This was affecting my family, the kids, my wife, we might have been kicked out of our home. That was the biggest deal. This had to get off my family’s back,” said Leap.

Now that Leap’s family doesn’t have to move and he can go about his life, his family didn’t waste any time celebrating his pardon. They went to a steak house and ordered the biggest steaks and anything else they felt like on the menu.