Pieper Lewis, the Iowa teenager who killed her alleged rapist, escaped from custody

Pieper Lewis, the Iowa teenager who killed her alleged rapist, escaped from custody


Pieper LewisAn Iowa teenager who killed a man she said raped her and was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution to his family has escaped from a residential correctional facility, according to the Iowa Fifth Judicial District Department of Corrections.

Lewis “departed the Fresh Start Women’s Center at 6:19 a.m. Friday after she disconnected her electronic monitoring device,” Jerry Evans, the district’s executive director, told CNN in an email Sunday morning. “Her whereabouts are unknown at this time.”

Officials filed a probation violation report, Evans said, and recommended that her probation be revoked. “A warrant was subsequently issued for her arrest, which remains outstanding.”

Lewis was 15 years old when she killed a man she said had raped her repeatedly, CNN reported. She received a deferred sentence from Polk County Circuit Judge David Porter after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and malicious wounding, and in September an Iowa judge ordered Lewis to pay $150,000 in restitution to her family, as required by Iowa law.

Porter also ruled that Lewis will receive five years of probation, serve 200 hours of community service and pay an additional $4,000 in civil penalties. The deferred adjudication meant it could be expunged from Lewis’ record.

The Des Moines facility from which Lewis escaped is a residential correctional facility, according to the website of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Corrections. It “accepts residents of different legal status,” who could be admitted “as a condition of probation or parole,” it said. The program aims to “provide a safe and holistic approach to supervision that seeks to educate, support and advocate for all women to transform their lives,” according to the website.

Lewis pleaded guilty to murdering Zachary Brooks in June 2021, alleging in a plea agreement that the 37-year-old raped her multiple times in 2020. She was originally charged with first degree murder.

In the plea agreement, Lewis said she ran away from home several times and ended up sleeping in the hallway of the apartment complex.

A man took her in, but she left when he became violent, she wrote in the plea agreement. She said she then moved in with another man who created an online dating profile for her and arranged for men to have sex with her for money. She lived with the man, who told her she was his girlfriend, from April 2020 until his arrest in Brooks’ murder, Lewis said.

She was introduced to Brooks in May 2020, and he gave her alcohol and marijuana and had sex with her five times while she was unconscious over three days, she said. Lewis found out what he did, according to the plea, every time she regained consciousness and he was still on top of her.

On May 31, the man Lewis lived with confronted her at knifepoint after she refused his order to go to Brooks’ apartment to have sex with Brooks in exchange for marijuana, she wrote. She eventually agreed to leave after he slit her throat, she said in the plea.

At Brooks’ apartment, she was forced to drink vodka and fell asleep, she wrote. At one point, she woke up and Brooks was raping her, she said. Brooks fell asleep and Lewis went to find her clothes. When she returned to the bedroom, she saw him passed out naked, she wrote.

“Suddenly I realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me once again and I was overcome with rage. Without thinking, I immediately grabbed a knife from his nightstand and started stabbing him,” Lewis stated in the plea agreement. “I further acknowledge that the multiple stab wounds I subsequently inflicted on Mr. Brooks ultimately resulted in his death.”

In ordering community service, Judge Porter said it would give Lewis the opportunity to tell her “story to other young and vulnerable women in our community.

Lewis’ lawyer said he was pleased the court had deferred her sentence, praising her courage. But advocates for victims of sexual violence disagreed.

“I don’t think justice was served,” Kelly Marie Meek of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault said at the time, expressing concern about Lewis’ ability to meet the terms of her probation because of the severity of her trauma.

“Because I know that people who haven’t experienced trauma don’t understand a lot of the ways that trauma survivors deal with their trauma, which can sometimes lead to behaviors that get people into trouble,” she said.

Lewis is one of several teenagers – often of color – who have been legally punished or convicted of murdering their sex trafficker or attacker in recent years in the USA.

“It’s just a story that, unfortunately, has become all too familiar,” Cyntoia Brown told the “PBS Newshour.” Brown, now 32, was sentenced to life in prison for killing the man who paid to rape her when she was a 16-year-old victim of human trafficking. She was pardoned in 2019 after spending half her life behind bars.

“She was the victim in this situation,” Brown, now a criminal justice reform advocate, said of Lewis. “Not only will he have to serve time in an institution, but in the next five years anything he does could lead to him serving a 20-year sentence.” So she is not truly free.”

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