The Iowa teen who killed her alleged rapist and was sentenced to probation has escaped from custody
Pieper Lewis, the 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 corrections facility, according to Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District Department of Corrections.
Lewis “walked away from the Fresh Start Women’s Center on Friday at 6:19 a.m. after cutting off her electronic monitoring tracking device,” Jerry Evans, the district’s executive director, told CNN in an email Sunday morning. “At this time, her whereabouts are unknown.”
Officials have filed a probation violation report, Evans said, recommending her probation be revoked. “A warrant for her arrest was subsequently issued that remains outstanding.”
Lewis was 15 years old when she killed a man she said had raped her multiple times, CNN previously reported. She received a deferred judgment from Polk County District Judge David Porter after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury, and in September an Iowa judge ordered Lewis to pay $150,000 to his family in restitution, as required by Iowa law.
Porter also ruled Lewis would receive five years’ probation, serve 200 hours of community service and pay an additional $4,000 in civil penalties. The deferred judgment meant it could be expunged from Lewis’ record.
The Des Moines facility from which Lewis escaped is a residential corrections facility, according to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Department of Corrections website. It “accepts residents with varied legal status,” who might be admitted “as a condition of probation or parole,” it says. 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,” the website says.
Lewis pleaded guilty in June 2021 to the killing of Zachary Brooks, saying in the plea agreement the 37-year-old raped her multiple times in 2020. She was initially charged with first-degree murder.
In the agreement, Lewis said she ran away from home several times and ended up sleeping in the hallway of an apartment complex.
One man took her in, but she left when he became abusive, 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 that man, who told her she was his girlfriend, from April 2020 until she was arrested for killing Brooks, 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 a three-day period, she said. Lewis learned of what he had done, according to the plea, each time she regained consciousness and he was still on top of her.
On May 31, the man with whom Lewis lived with confronted her with a knife after she refused his order to go to Brooks’ apartment to have sex with Brooks in exchange for marijuana, she wrote. Eventually she agreed to go after he cut her neck, she said in the plea.
At Brooks’ apartment, she was forced to drink vodka shots 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 came back to the bedroom, she saw him passed out naked, she wrote.
“I suddenly realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me yet again and was overcome with rage. Without thinking, I immediately grabbed the knife from his nightstand and began stabbing him,” Lewis stated in the plea agreement. “I further acknowledge that the multiple stab wounds that I inflicted upon Mr. Brooks thereafter ultimately resulted in his death.”
Advocate expressed concern
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’ attorney said that he was pleased with the court deferring her sentence, praising her courage. But advocates for victims of sexual violence disagreed.
“I don’t think that justice was served,” KellyMarie Meek of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault said at the time, expressing concern about Lewis’ ability to manage the terms of her probation due to the severity of her trauma.
“Because I know that many of the ways that trauma survivors deal with their trauma is not understood very well by folks that haven’t experienced trauma, which can sometimes lead to behaviors that get folks in trouble,” she said.
Lewis is one of several teenagers — often of color — who have been legally penalized or convicted of killing their sex trafficker or assaulter in recent years in the US.
“It’s just a story that has unfortunately become all too familiar,” Cyntoia Brown told “PBS Newshour.” Brown, now 32, was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who paid to rape her when she was a 16-year-old trafficking victim. She was granted clemency in 2019 after spending half her life behind bars.
“She was a victim in this situation,” Brown, now a criminal justice reform advocate, said of Lewis. “Not only is she going to have to serve time in a facility but, over the next five years, anything that she does can trigger her having to serve a 20-year sentence. So,she’s not truly free.”
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