Pieper Lewis, the Iowa teen and sex trafficking victim who killed a man she said raped her multiple times, is back in custody following her escape from the residential corrections facility where she was serving probation, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Lewis, 18, was arrested just days after she walked away from the Des Moines women’s center where she’d been sent as part of a deferred judgment she received after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury in the 2020 killing of 37-year-old old Zachary Brooks. Lewis was 15 at the time.
Lewis was found in Des Moines and taken back into custody Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Corrections said in a statement. The teenager is being held at the Polk County Jail, said Lt. Ryan Evans of the sheriff’s office, who told News84Media she was expected to have a future court date for violating her probation.
Lewis went missing early Friday, November 4, when she cut off an electronic monitoring device and left the Fresh Start Women’s Center, Jerry Evans, the executive director of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Corrections, previously told News84Media.
When she left, authorities filed a “probation violation report,” Evans told News84Media, “recommending revocation of her probation” and requesting a warrant for her arrest.
The probation violation report said an alarm sounded at the facility at 6:19 am, notifying staff a door had been opened. A residential officer then saw Lewis exiting the facility through a door, according to the report obtained by News84Media.
The report, which was signed by a probation officer and a residential supervisor, goes on to request the warrant for Lewis’ arrest, adding, “It is further ordered that her deferred judgments (be) revoked and original sentence imposed.”
Lewis became a resident at the Fresh Start Women’s Center after pleading guilty in Brooks’ killing, saying in her plea agreement he raped her multiple times.
She originally faced up to 20 years in prison. But in September, Polk County District Judge David Porter handed down a deferred judgment, meaning the plea could be expunged if she completed the probationary sentence at the residential correctional facility.
Under Iowa law, the court additionally had to order Lewis to pay a $150,000 restitution fee to Brooks’ family, the judge said. He also ruled that she should serve 200 hours of community service and pay more than $4,000 in civil penalties.
In the plea agreement, Lewis outlined for the court the series of events that she said led up to the killing, beginning with her running away from home due to what she said was an abusive environment. She was eventually taken in by a man who she said trafficked her, forcing her to have sex with other men in exchange for money. Brooks was one of those men, according to Lewis, who described in her agreement being repeatedly assaulted, including while she was unconscious.
On May 31, 2020, the man with whom Lewis lived confronted her with a knife and forced her to go to Brooks’ apartment, where Lewis said she was forced to drink vodka and eventually fell asleep. At one point, she woke up to find Brooks was raping her, she said.
Later, Brooks fell asleep and Lewis, “overcome with rage” at the realization he had raped her again, “immediately grabbed the knife from his nightstand and began stabbing him,” she said in the plea agreement.
Lewis’ attorney was pleased with the deferred judgment, but advocates for victims of sexual violence voiced concern about her ability to serve the sentence, pointing to the extent of her trauma.
They also highlighted how her case echoed other recent cases in the US in which teenagers – often people of color – have been legally penalized or convicted of killing their sex trafficker or assaulter.