By David Pitt
DES MOINES, IOWA (AP) — An 18-year-old sex trafficking victim who killed her rapist was being held in an Iowa jail Wednesday and could face a prison term after she walked away from a Des Moines women’s shelter where she was serving probation for a manslaughter conviction.
Pieper Lewis was booked into the Polk County Jail on Tuesday, said Polk County Sheriff Lt. Ryan Evans.
Iowa Department of Corrections officers located her in Des Moines and took her into custody.
“We would like to thank law enforcement and members of Iowa’s 5th Judicial District for their efforts to safely bring Ms. Lewis back into custody,” corrections spokesman Nick Crawford said.
An arrest warrant was issued after Lewis was seen walking out of the Fresh Start Women’s Center in Des Moines shortly after 6:15 a.m. Friday, according to a report filed with the court by a probation officer and the shelter’s residential supervisor. The report said Lewis cut off the GPS monitor she was ordered to wear as part of her sentence and then left the facility.
She will be taken before Judge David Porter for a probation revocation hearing. A judge on Wednesday set the hearing for Nov. 18. If her probation is revoked, she could be sent to prison.
Porter sentenced Lewis in September to probation for five years to be served at the women’s shelter. He also gave her a deferred judgement, which meant her conviction would be expunged from her record if she completed the requirements of her probation. Porter warned Lewis at her sentencing hearing that by affording her an opportunity to avoid prison he was giving her a second chance. “You don’t get a third,” he said.
Lewis had faced a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks, a married father of two. Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment. She had originally been charged with first-degree murder, but prosecutors agreed to a plea deal that dropped that charge in exchange for her plea.
Lewis has said that she was trafficked against her will to Brooks for sex multiple times and stabbed him in a fit of rage after he forced her to have sex with him again. Police and prosecutors did not dispute that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked. The man she accused of forcing her to have sex with men, including Brooks, has never been charged.
Court documents indicate Lewis was allowed to leave the women’s shelter to work at a local pizza restaurant and show she had several incidents of violating the shelter rules in the past month.
The 48-bed shelter is in a neighborhood northwest of downtown Des Moines. It is operated by the Department of Corrections for women on parole, work release or on pretrial release.
Porter also had ordered Lewis to pay $150,000 restitution to Brooks’ estate, a move many people found to be outrageous. Porter said Iowa law required the restitution. Court records show Lewis’ lawyer has asked the judge to reconsider and Porter ordered lawyers to file briefs on the issue by Thursday. He indicated he would release a decision within 30 days.
A GoFundMe campaign started by a high school teacher who taught Lewis has raised over $560,000. No new donations were being accepted, according to the site. The money remains with the GoFundMe organization and he and Lewis do not yet have access to it. Court records indicate the restitution has not yet been paid.
The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sexual assault, but Lewis agreed to have her name used previously in stories about her case.