DENVER (CBS4)Erik Jensen, originally sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder in the 1998 death of his friend’s mother, has been released. He said he helped clean up the crime scene, but did not take part in the murder.

Erik Jensen (credit: CBS)

Jensen has spent most of his life in prison. Now, he’s free and looking forward to using his life to help others.

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Ask any long time Coloradan and they will tell you, LoDo has changed a lot in the last two decades

“Pretty dramatically, obviously,” said Erik Jensen as he sipped coffee at Denver’s Union Station while talking with CBS4’s Michael Abeyta.

The last time he was here, he was a teenager with his dad scouting locations for redevelopment.

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He points at the Icehouse, “I was in those buildings before they were gutted. Now they’re quadrillion dollar lofts.”

Erik is back, starting his life over again after 20 years.

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He says it doesn’t feel real yet, “Right now, it’s almost like being on vacation.”

Erik Jensen (credit: CBS)

Just last week, Erik was released from prison. He was serving a life sentence for murder. He was convicted in 1999 when he was just 17.

In 2003, his co-defendant signed a sworn affidavit saying Erik was not involved in planning or executing the murder. Despite that, many appeals, a request for clemency from then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, and a re-sentencing following a Supreme Court ruling that a sentence of life without parole for teenagers was unconstitutional, Erik remained in prison.

“It’s been a super roller coaster,” he said.

While in prison, he changed as much as the place he now calls home. Erik found God and helped start a CrossFit program for prisoners. He has reckoned with what he did and didn’t do and is remorseful, yet his earliest chance of parole was in 2039. That is, until December 2019 when Gov. Jared Polis commuted his sentence.

(credit: CBS)

“They called and said you got it and I was like, ‘Alright… you know… thanks.’ Later I was like, ‘Oh! I got it!'” he said.

Erik is now a free man. It’s a life he feared he may never have. He’s active with his church and he still teaches CrossFit. He’s planning to start a job soon and he wants to use his new opportunity to volunteer at the prison so he can help his friends he left behind continue to change their lives. He wants to continue to be an example for people transitioning out of prison.

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“I’m just thankful for the opportunity and I’m just trying to honor what has been done for me.”

Michael Abeyta