Teen Killer Also a Grand Success Story

ByABC News

Aug. 4, 2005 -- -- At the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections facility called the Adobe Mountain School, the violent offenders are housed in a unit called "Crossroads."

A visitor might be surprised to find 17-year-old Jesse there. He was president of student council and had his picture taken with the governor. Many regard him as the school's real success story.

But Jesse has also been at Adobe the longest. He entered two years ago, after facing manslaughter charges. Unlike adults, who are sentenced in a criminal proceeding, Arizona's juveniles are committed through a juvenile proceeding.

Jesse says the killing was the scariest moment of his life.

When Jesse was 14, his older brother was hosting a party. Jesse's buddy, 19-year-old Alexis Acosta was there. For some reason, Jesse wanted to impress Alexis so he went to his brother's closet.

Jesse says he grabbed what he thought was an unloaded shotgun, and fired it at his friend. "I expected to hear a click and then to show it off as 'it's cool,' you know, a little thing," he said. "But it was loaded."

His brother called 911. Police made sure he was in complete control of his faculties. "I wasn't drunk or anything," Jesse said. "They gave me a Breathalyzer test on site. Zeroes across the board."

Jesse swears it was all a terrible mistake and the judge agreed. As a result, he was not tried as an adult for murder.

For Jesse, the last three years of his life have been all about hope -- a belief that he is better than his past.

"There is no bringing Alexis back. He has been added to my motivation to become a greater person, so I can look up one day and say, 'Alexis, this is for you. I did this for you,'" Jesse said.

"Primetime" co-anchor Chris Cuomo asked Jesse where he hoped his life would be years from now. "Instead of taking away from this world, instead of hurting, I am now giving back and helping," Jesse said.

In September Jesse will turn 18, and he'll "age out" of Adobe. He has been at the facility so long, he is not sure what life will be like on the outside.

He said he'll be nervous "the moment I'm facing the gate and I hear the call for the gate to open, and before me I see a horizon without fences, and I'm experiencing freedom for the first time in such a great while."

He said he thinks he'll "fall to my knees and I begin to cry, because I ... I don't remember what it's like."

Jesse recently finished high school at Adobe and has begun college level classes. He plans to enroll in a university outside of the gates next semester.

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