LAS VEGAS — When someone robbed a Carl’s Jr. in 1994 and shot the manager dead, witnesses couldn't agree on what the killer looked like.

Nevertheless, DeMarlo Berry spent 23 years in prison for the murder. Last week, the 42-year-old was exonerated, in large part due to attorneys in Utah who took up his case.

“If they weren't as thorough as they were, we wouldn't be here," Berry said Friday. "I'd just be another number in prison."

Berry made the comments at a news conference with his wife and lawyers in a Las Vegas law office. He wore a crisp denim shirt and smiled broadly, saying he’s looking forward to eating steak and fries. He was a barber in prison and wants to do the same job in the outside world, he added.

At the time of the killing more than two decades ago, witnesses couldn’t agree on what the murderer looked like, said the University of Utah's Jensie Anderson, Rocky Mountain Innocence Center legal director. An anonymous tipster said the killer might be Berry or another man. Berry walked into the police station to tell officers he wasn't involved.

But he was convicted after a jailhouse informant testified that Berry, then 19, recounted killing the fast-food worker and gave details about the crime.

In 2011, Berry was more than a decade-and-a-half into his life sentence without parole when he called lawyers associated with the University of Utah.

The Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, an organization that works to free people it believes wrongfully convicted of a crime, found there was no DNA collected in the investigation more than 20 years ago that would have positively linked Berry to the death.

An attorney working with the center, Samantha Wilcox, visited the other suspect in the case, Steven Jackson, now 45 and serving time in a California prison for a conviction similar to the Nevada murder, Anderson said.

“We went in to talk to him and he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you for 15 years,'” Anderson said. Jackson confessed to killing the fast-food manager, Charles Burkes.

The attorneys kept going. They also found the informant, Richard Iden, who recanted his testimony.

Berry's lawyers took the case to the Nevada Supreme Court.

“It was a long, hard fight for DeMarlo, but he never lost his faith” Anderson said.

On Friday, a pardons officer dropped him off at his news conference two hours early, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. So he walked to his grandma’s house.

He had only a debit card and his release papers, and no cellphone. He didn’t recognize new buildings, homes and roads he saw on his way, and he described the experience as surreal.

Berry said that after his release, he had "sensory overload" as he saw how much his city had changed in two decades.

He is now learning to use the internet and cellphones.

At the news conference Friday, his high school sweetheart, now his wife, said his release means “everything to me.” Odilia Berry said she thanks God her husband is free. The two wed in 2010 at the prison.

The news conference was held near an area where Berry used to hang out.

Before he was arrested in April 1994, he sold drugs and frequented a now-closed bar several blocks away, according to 1995 testimony from his trial.

Berry said he changed during that time, too. He decided that in order to become a better person than when he arrived in prison, he had to do something different, "so I took it upon myself to learn a trade. Barbering," he said.

He is planning to intern at a Las Vegas barbershop as he pursues his license.

His attorney declined to say if Berry would sue over his wrongful conviction and prison sentence. Nevada is one of several states that do not compensate wrongfully convicted and newly released inmates, Anderson said.

Berry, for his part, said he has no interest in being angry.

"I just want to continue with life," he said. "I have a second chance at life, and I'll take the opportunity."

Contributing: The Associated Press