Elkhart 4 life after lockup: Levi Sparks one year later

NOW: Elkhart 4 life after lockup: Levi Sparks one year later

Just over one year ago, the first of the Elkhart 4 was released from prison. ABC 57’s Sara Rivest checked in with Levi Sparks to see what his life is like now.

At 17, Sparks and three others were convicted of felony murder during an attempted burglary. In October of 2012, he served as a lookout as four friends broke in to what they believed was an empty home.

The homeowner, who was sleeping upstairs, woke up and grabbed his gun. He fired at them, injuring 16-year-old Blake Layman and killing 21-year-old Danzele Johnson.

Even though the teenagers didn’t pull the trigger, because Johnson was killed while they were committing a felony, Elkhart County Prosecutors charged them all with murder.

“There was a point in there where I just thought it was a done deal. I thought I was stuck and just because I lost hope,” said Sparks.

Sentenced to 50 years behind bars, he fought the conviction.

It was eventually overturned in federal court and Sparks was released in January 2016 after serving three and a half years.

Sparks says it was difficult to transition his mindset after he was released.

“I had adapted to thinking I’d be in prison the rest of my life. Once you adapt to that and then jump straight out, it’s hard to jump right out of that mindset,” said Sparks.

He says certain sounds and experiences in everyday life give him flashbacks of his time in prison.

“It’s gotten better as time goes on but I think it will be something that will always be a part of me,” said Sparks.

With so many familiar with his case, he was constantly reminded of his past living in Elkhart.

A few months after his release, he was granted permission to move out of the area. He now lives in Portage, MI with his girlfriend Jamie and her son Kyan.

“I’m a new guy. I’m not a kid any more. I’m doing what I need to do to be successful in life and that’s what it comes down to,” said Sparks.

Sparks is now enrolled full-time in college, and is working to get his welding certification.

“Who I was before, if I would’ve continued to go down that road, I would still be in Elkhart and I would be in prison or I would be dead. It kind of opened my eyes and made me realize what life can really be like. I’m grateful for it but at the same time I’m sorry for it,” said Sparks.

The sentences of the other three involved were also overturned.

Blake Layman has been working full-time since his release last March. Last week, he and his fiancé gave birth to their first child.

Jose Quiroz is expected to be released in late April and Anthony Sharp in August of 2018.

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