In the vein of Teen Mom (but without the babies), MTV’s newest docuseries explores the consequences young people face after making life-changing decisions. The premiere episode featured Miriam Weeks — who is better-known as “Duke Porn Star” Belle Knox. The upcoming episode features Levi Sparks, whose story isn’t as widely known, but isn’t any less compelling.
As the clip shows, Levi was recently expelled from school and disturbed to learn his mom is missing. Then, as MTV says, “Levi didn’t think things could get any worse, but they did.” So, what happened to Levi Sparks in real life? In October 2012, Levi was accused of felony murder for his involvement in the shooting death of a pal when he and four friends were attempting to break in. One of their accomplices was killed by the homeowner, who was uninjured.
According to a WNDU report from the time, the four surviving teens — who became known as the Elkhart 4 — broke into a home during broad daylight. (Technically, 17-year-old Levi was serving as lookout from a porch across the street.) The homeowner heard commotion from upstairs, called 911, went downstairs and started firing a handgun.
“Upon making a determination there were folks armed with knives from the kitchen, roaming around his house with an unknown intention, he took action in what I determined to be reasonable force under the circumstances,” prosecutor Curtis Hill Jr. said in 2012. “We have a death here and someone is going to be accountable for that death and under the circumstances of the people who put this in motion, in this particular instance it would not be the homeowner.”
The case was controversial from the beginning, partially because three of the defendants were younger than 18. After a short trial in 2013, Levi (along with two others) were convicted of felony murder. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Following an initial appeal, Indiana’s Appellate Court reduced the sentence to 45 years because the trial was too quick — but upheld the convictions. However, Levi maintains the sentence and conviction isn’t just.
“Layman and Sparks also argue that Indiana Code Section 35-42-1-1, the felony murder
statute, was not properly applied in this case,” lawyers for Levi and one of his co-defendants argued in an appeal filed in September. “The gravamen of this argument is that Johnson’s death was not reasonably foreseeable to Layman and Sparks, which is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence.”
According to a WBST report from last weekend, justices from the Indiana supreme court are currently considering whether they should review the case. If they do, “that decision would probably take weeks or months.” Free The Elkhart 4 said two appellate judge suggested they would have reached a different decision, but were bound by the current law. They quote one of those judges as saying, “Subjecting a juvenile who did not kill or intend to kill anyone to a murder prosecution in adult court based solely on the premise it was ‘foreseeable’ to the juvenile that someone might be killed is problematic because juveniles do not ‘foresee’ like adults do.”