Inside the Mind of a Teen Felon

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Charles Lewis Jr. was just thirteen when he was involved in a murder. Now he's 16-years-old and is being held in the juvenile detention center "Maxey." If he's lucky he could be a free when he turns 21.

After years of criminal activity, Charles Lewis Jr. lives a life of limbo, not knowing when or if he will ever get out of prison.

In 2012 he was found guilty of felony murder. He and several others dragged 19- year old Shayla Johnson out of bed, beat her and shot her during an attempted drug robbery in 2010.

Ingham County prosecuting attorney Stuart Dunnings says, "When I think of Charles Lewis Jr., I think of a young man that had a history of misbehavior and criminality from a very young age... In my perspective he's a stone cold killer."

While in kindergarten, Charles was disciplined 12 times for using "abusive language," "verbal assault" and "disorderly conduct."
He was absent for more than three weeks of school, and late another 15 days.

During second grade he was suspended for seven school days, for "disorderly conduct," "abusive language," and "physical assault."
And by the end of the year, academically he was "struggling in all areas."

It doesn't stop there. In third grade he was suspended for 9 days.

"If somebody is coming in and misbehaving in the third grade on, there is something wrong in the home," the prosecutor said.

In fourth grade he was suspended for 62 days.
Fifth grade -- 35 days.
Sixth grade -- 62 days, before being expelled for the year.

The bad behavior eventually turned criminal:
In 2006 -- aggravated assault, damage to property, and burglary.
In 2007 -- retail fraud/theft.
In 2008 -- another assault, burglary/breaking & entering.
In 2009 -- larceny, burglary/breaking & entering.
In 2010 -- aggravated assault, and later was convicted of murdering Shayla Johnson.

"Charles recognizes that his upbringing was a crucial part in what has happened and the crimes that he has committed, however, he accepts full responsibility," said Stephanie Cunningham, Lewis' social worker.

Lewis was raised in a home where crime was part of life. His father has an extensive criminal history, including assault with dangerous weapons, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, firearms felonies, and robbery.

"His father was out of his life because he was in prison," Dunnings said. But one lesson Lewis couldn't avoid is tattooed boldly across his father's neck: "COP KILLER."

His mother Trisha Lindsey has a history of her own, including child neglect. Twice Lansing police found crack cocaine and marijuana in the home. Lewis was in second grade the first time it happened. Each time, he and his siblings were taken away and put in foster care.

"He sees that there was some issues with some neglect on his parents part but in no way is he shifting responsibility on his parents," said Cunningham.

Lewis' mom was involved with his rehabilitation up until March of 2013, when she was incarcerated. His father's trial for allegedly pulling the trigger that killed Shayla Johnson is pending.

Ingham County court Judge George Economy said, "He comes from a background where a father was continually in prison; where his mother had spent various terms in jail. So this is not a unique thing. Charles Lewis has been raising himself for a long time without the parents being present to do the things that parents should be doing."

But Prosecutor Dunnings said, "There's always hope even if it is miniscule."

While Lewis had a tremendously challenging upbringing, and obviously made mistakes and broke the law, Judge Economy believes people can change and is giving Lewis a chance. "I'm waiting to see what he's going to do and how he progresses. That was what the whole theory was to see what happened. If it failed then i always have the alternative to say you know what you were given the opportunity you failed and now i am going to put you in prison for the rest of your life."

Read the complete trial transcripts:







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