MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. (CBS) — A former juvenile lifer from the Delaware Valley got the experience of a lifetime in Minneapolis over the weekend thanks to one Philadelphia Eagle.
Kempis Songster says he’s grateful and says this the “best birthday experience ever.”
“It was a magnificent honor and it just makes me more humble,” he says.
Songster’s good fortune comes thanks to a relationship he made while he was an inmate at Graterford Prison. It was there he met Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who is known for his work in social justice reform.
Songster was serving a mandatory life without parole sentence for a murder he committed in 1987. Songster was 15-years-old. Like many teens sentenced during the late 1980’s and 90’s the sentences were harsh and meant they’d die in prison. Then in 2015 a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made freedom possible for hundreds of juvenile lifers across the country, including the 500 sentenced in Pennsylvania.
In the summer of 2017 Songster would be re-sentenced and released late December. He reconnected with Jenkins in January and it was then that the Eagles superstar offered him tickets to the biggest football game of the year.
“At the time, we didn’t know the Eagles would be playing in the Super Bowl,” Songster said, “but for them to get to the Super Bowl and then to Win- it was amazing.”
Songster says what was more amazing was Jenkins’ generosity.
He explained that Jenkins took care of the travel expenses, accommodations, and even the car service for Songster and his fiance.
“I understood what Malcolm was putting on the line offering this to someone who just came out of prison,” he said, “I knew how people might perceive it. I was so, so grateful.”
With permission of the Pennsylvania Parole Board, Songster and his fiance traveled to Minneapolis last Friday. He even checked in with police in Minneapolis to keep authorities apprised of his whereabouts. They then spent Saturday at the Mall of America.
“I got on roller coasters and was zip-lining,” Songster said. “It was sensory overload for me after 30 years of living a very monotonous life.”
Then, the stadium and seeing the Eagles play and win, with friendly fans all around him.
“I had an Eagles t-shirt with Malcolm Jenkins’ number on the back with my name Songster over the number,” he said, noting that a couple of people recognized him and asked for photos. “It was surreal.”
Songster celebrated his 46th birthday this week, his first life anniversary as a free man in three decades.
“To be there in that stadium, with all that noise, all that cheering and all that good positive energy,” he said, “I needed that.”
Songster says there is not a day that he forgets the crime he committed against 17-year-old Anjo Pryce, who’s life was cut short.
Songster offered his deepest regrets to the Pryce family at his re-sentencing hearing and says he will spend his life working to bring good into the world.
You can hear about Songster’s work in social justice, his efforts at redemption and more Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m on Flashpoint.