Pieper Lewis, the Iowa teenager who killed his alleged rapist, has escaped custody


Pieper Lewis, the Iowa teenager who killed a man he said raped him and was sentenced to prison 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 “walked away from the Fresh Start Women’s Center at 6:19 a.m. Friday after her electronic tracking device was cut off,” Jerry Evans, the district’s executive director, told CNN in an email Sunday morning. “At this time, his whereabouts are unknown.”

Officials have filed a parole report, Evans said, recommending that his parole be revoked. “A warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest, and he is still missing.”

Lewis was 15 years old when he killed a man who said he raped her multiple times, CNN previously reported. He received a deferred sentence from Polk County District Judge David Porter after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and voluntary injury, and in September an Iowa judge ordered Lewis to pay $150,000 in restitution to his family, as required by Iowa law.

Porter also ruled that Lewis would receive five years of probation, perform 200 hours of community service and pay an additional $4,000 in civil penalties. The deferred sentence meant Lewis could be expunged from his record.

The Des Moines facility from which Lewis escaped is a residential correctional facility, according to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Department of Corrections website. It “accepts residents of diverse legal status,” who may be admitted “as parolees or parolees.” The program “aims to provide a safe and holistic approach to vision 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 murder of Zachary Brooks, and said he raped the 37-year-old multiple times in 2020 in a plea agreement. He was initially charged with first degree murder.

In the plea deal, Lewis said she ran away from home several times and slept in the hallway of an apartment complex.

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

Brooks was introduced in May 2020, and he gave her alcohol and marijuana and had sex with her five times over a three-day period while she was unconscious, he said. Lewis knew what he had done, according to the plea, whenever he regained consciousness and was still on top of him.

On May 31, the man Lewis lived with confronted him with a knife after he refused an order to go to Brooks’ apartment to have sex with Brooks in exchange for marijuana, he wrote. He finally agreed to go after slitting his throat, he said in a plea.

At Brooks’ apartment, she forced him to drink vodka shots and fell asleep, she wrote. At one point she woke up and said Brooks was raping her. Brooks fell asleep and Lewis went to get his clothes. When he returned to the bedroom, he saw him walking around naked, he wrote.

“Suddenly I realized that Mr. Brooks had raped me again and that he was overcome with rage. Without thinking, I immediately grabbed a knife from his nightstand and began stabbing him,” Lewis stated in the plea agreement. “I further acknowledge that the multiple stab wounds I 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 judge deferred his sentence, praising his bravery. But advocates for victims of sexual violence disagreed.

“I don’t think justice was served,” KellyMarie Meek of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault said at the time, concerned about Lewis’ ability to manage the terms of his probation given the severity of his trauma.

“I know that a lot of the ways that trauma survivors deal with trauma are not very well understood by people who haven’t been through trauma, and that can sometimes lead to behaviors that can cause problems,” she said.

Lewis is one of several teenagers, often of color, who have been convicted or sentenced in the United States in recent years for killing their sex trafficker or abuser.

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

“He was a victim in this situation,” Brown, now an advocate for criminal justice reform, said of Lewis. “Not only will he have to serve time in a facility, but for the next five years, anything he does could result in him having to serve 20 years. So he’s not really free.”