LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Carissa McGee was one of Las Cruces' most highly decorated athletes. She played basketball at Mayfield High School and had offers to play division one basketball anywhere she wanted.
McGee was also in track and volleyball, but hopes of playing collegiate sports were dashed one afternoon in 2006 after she stabbed her mother and sister. The mother suffered 20 stab wounds. Carissa's older sister suffered 15 wounds. Both victims survived the attack.
McGee was 16 years old when she attacked her family and still a teenager when she traded in her green and gold uniform for a red prison jumpsuit and handcuffs. She pleaded no contest to the charges.
"I am so disappointed in that 16-year-old Carissa," McGee said in an exclusive and candid interview with ABC-7, "The scholarships that I lost, the broken family I have, my loss of liberty - it was all my doing. I did that to myself."
McGee was released from prison for good behavior in 2014. During her interview with ABC-7, the former Las Cruces basketball star revealed she attacked her mother and sister during an argument triggered when she told her mother she wanted to leave home to go live with her girlfriend. McGee's mother Anita reportedly warned her: "over my dead body."
McGee says those four words triggered rage and anger in a girl struggling with her identity and sexuality. Carissa says she "had demons and monsters" and that the day she tried to kill her mother and sister was a "blur of those emotions."
"I regret not walking out of the house," McGee said, "I caused a lot of pain to my mother and community." McGee described a personal struggle over her sexual orientation. "That is a fierce battle for somebody to take on because you start questioning everything - your purpose for living. It is an ugly feeling.
The struggle worsened after McGee was arrested and charged in the violent attack against her family. "Even after I committed my crime and I was arrested, and going through therapy, they were trying to get to me to admit I was a lesbian. I couldn't admit to it. I thought I was filthy," McGee told ABC-7 as she reflected on her ordeal.
When addressing the court on the day Judge Robert Robles sentenced her to 21 years in prison, McGee turned around to look at her mother and said, "I love you mom." Her mother Anita described that day in the courtroom as "the saddest day of her life."
McGee has not seen her mother or sister since the day she started serving her prison time. When asked if she recalled the events of the day of the attack, McGee said, "I remember I was very lost, very confused, so alone struggling in my own head."
McGee said that if she saw her mother and sister today, she would thank her sister Marie for saving their mother's life. "Marie is my hero. She saved my mother's life which, in essence, saved my life," McGee said.
Now 29 years old, McGee told ABC-7 she has turned her life around: "I had to forgive the 16-year-old Carissa."
McGee is now "pursuing her purpose," which she described as helping others who have been incarcerated turn their lives around. She has also self published a book titled "Trust Your Struggle" and is a motivational speaker in the prison system. "I love to connect with people and watch them bloom," McGee said.
In May 2018, McGee married Martina, the high school girl at the center of the argument with her mother. "I have been able to re-establish my dignity," she said, "I have a loving wife and a beautiful home."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Estela Casas' special report airs Monday night on ABC-7 at 10. Look for previews in our afternoon newscasts.