An eight-year ordeal for a Toronto man ended Thursday as a court acquitted him in one of the city's most shocking murders of a three-year-old girl.

Craig Patrick was convicted in 2001 of second-degree murder and sentenced to life for the death of Breanna Davy in June 1999. Patrick appealed the sentence in February of last year.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the original trial judge made a mistake. The court granted Patrick bail and ordered a retrial.

That trial ended Thursday as Patrick was acquitted.

"It's been hell of course, but I never gave up," Patrick said outside court.

With his elated mother and sister at his side, the 29-year-old said his immediate plans are "to smile just like this."

The original conviction was thrown out by the appeals court because the judge did not warn the jury about the credibility of the key witness, Davy's father Warren Blackstock. He had a lengthy legal record including a conviction for manslaughter.

Blackstock was the intended target in the shooting that took young Davy's life. He was shot three times and left paralyzed. The young girl, who was sitting next to her father in a car, was also struck and died.

Blackstock pointed the finger at Patrick, saying he was the shooter. But the appeals court pointed to complications; the gunman was wearing a mask and Blackstock had several enemies.

It was enough for a jury to overturn the conviction on retrial.

Patrick's lawyer Richard Posner called it a case of tunnel-vision by investigators.

"Mr. Blackstock himself confirmed with the police that there were innumerable people in the very same community who were after him," Posner said. "He felt that his life was in constant danger. That's why he walked around armed all the time."

Posner added that a lawsuit in the case is a possibility.

Patrick said he is just looking forward to getting on with his life.

Police told CTV's Chris Eby that they have no plans to reopen the investigation, meaning the young girl's killer may never be caught.

With a report from CTV's Chris Eby