Levi Sparks spends 23 hours a day in an 8 x 10 prison cell that's so small he has to stand sideways when his cellmate wants to walk by. The 20-year-old Indiana native is two years into a 45-year sentence that could keep him locked up until he turns 63.
How did he land there? One bad choice. Levi, who's serving time on a felony murder conviction, is at the center of Wednesday night's (February 4) episode of the new MTV series, "One Bad Choice," (11 p.m. ET/PT) which follows subjects whose lives were forever altered by a single decision and its often drastic repercussions.
"What I thought was that I would be on a successful path, but what I knew was that I was going down the most destructive path I could go on," Sparks told MTV News on Wednesday morning (March 4) in an interview from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility near Terre Haute, Indiana. "I wish I had did better in school or hung out with the right crowd [which] would have led me down a different path."
The Moment It All Changed
Kicked out of his high school for fighting, Levi was drinking and hanging out with his crew back in October 2012 when they made a decision that would alter all of their lives forever, resulting in one friend getting killed and landing the rest of them in prison on felony murder convictions.
"I just miss being with family," said Sparks, who was 16 at the time he was charged as an adult. "That's something that runs through my mind every day... being home with family and my fiancé and not worrying about being far away and waking up seeing these walls."
One bad choice that changed everything. From lifelong dreams of working as a mortician (or maybe a fireman) and raising a family to living in a claustrophobic cell in a men's prison at 18, Sparks saw it all change in that instant. The unbelievable chain of events that landed him behind bars is still like a bad dream for Sparks, who holds out hope that a recent Indiana Supreme Court appeal by his lawyers might put him back on the path to the life he once imagined.
'Why Didn't I Listen To My Family?'
Sparks asks himself a lot of questions as he lies in his bunk for hours a day reading "Harry Potter" and R.L. Stine and listening to his favorite country and pop music (Luke Bryan, Sam Smith). But there's one question he wishes he could ask his 16-year-old self that keeps coming back in his head.
"Why didn't I listen to my family?" he said. "They told me multiple times that I needed to quit hanging out with the group I was hanging out with. I was so stubborn and childish then. I wish I would have listened to them."
Sparks, who got his GED in August and is preparing for his graduation ceremony, said he's hopeful the appeal will go his way, but he's also preparing for it not to. "I feel really good about it," he said of the appeal, which he hasn't seen footage of yet. "When I'm laying down in bed I think this is basically do or die."
Go free, or spend nearly 20 more years in prison (with good time). Those are Levi's two very different futures right now. "Right now I'm not trying to think of [the two possibilities] because every time I do I get this weird feeling," he said. "I just want to lay there and cry."
Tune in to MTV on March 4 at 11 p.m. to hear Levi's whole story and check back later for more from our interview with him.