Iowa Teen Who Killed Her Alleged Rapist Escapes Custody

Inside a prison

Pieper Lewis, now 18, was ordered to pay her abuser’s family $150,000 in restitution.

An Iowa teen who was sentenced to probation after killing the man she said had raped her multiple times has escaped from a residential corrections facility.

Pieper Lewis, now 18 years old, “walked away from the Fresh Start Women’s Center on Friday at 6:19 a.m. after cutting off her electronic monitoring tracking device,” the district’s executive director told CNN.

“At this time, her whereabouts are unknown.”

A probation violation report has since been filed recommending that Lewis’s probation be revoked. “A warrant for her arrest was subsequently issued that remains outstanding,” Evans said.

As the Des Moines Register notes, the report asks for her deferred judgment to be revoked and her “original sentence imposed.” This means that Lewis could now face up to two decades behind bars.

A horrifying backstory

Pieper Lewis pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury for stabbing 37-year-old Zachary Brooks in June 2020. Lewis, then just 15 years old, said that Brooks had sexually assaulted her multiple times before she killed him.

Lewis had apparently suffered a series of incredibly traumatic events in the years and months leading up to Brooks’ death. According to her plea agreement, she ran away from home, and slept in an apartment block hallway before being taken in by a man who proved abusive. She then moved in with another man who arranged for her to have sex with other men for money. He introduced her to Brooks, who she said raped her five times while she was unconscious over a three-day period, after giving her alcohol and marijuana.

Lewis said she was forced to return to Brooks’ apartment to have sex with him after the man she lived with threatened her with a knife. Once there, she was made to drink vodka. She fell asleep, and woke up to discover that Brooks was assaulting her again. He then fell asleep, and Lewis went to find her clothes.

“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 her plea agreement. “I further acknowledge that the multiple stab wounds that I inflicted upon Mr. Brooks thereafter ultimately resulted in his death.”

Small mercy

In September, Judge David M Porter sentenced Lewis to five years’ probation, to be served at a women’s correctional facility. Lewis was also ordered to pay her abuser’s family $150,000 in restitution, serve 200 hours of community service and pay an additional $4,000 in civil penalties. Because the judgment was deferred, it would have been expunged from Lewis’s record.

Porter’s decision was widely criticized at the time for being overly harsh. The Guardian points out that unlike dozens of other states, Iowa has no law that offers trafficking victims even a token level of criminal immunity.

“She was a victim,” Cyntoia Brown, a criminal justice reform advocate, told PBS Newshour when Porter’s decision was announced in September. “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.” Brown, 32, was given a life sentence for killing a man who raped her when she was sexually trafficked at 16-year-old. She was granted clemency in 2019.