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Pieper Lewis Teen Killer Murders Alleged Rapist

Pieper Lewis

Pieper Lewis was a fifteen year old teen from Iowa who would fatally stab a man to death who she said repeatedly raped her. According to court documents Pieper Lewis alleged that the victim, 37 year old Zachary Brooks, repeatedly raped her a week before the murder. The teen killer would ultimately stab Zachary Brooks over thirty times causing his death. Pieper Lewis who initially charged with murder would plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Pieper Lewis would be sentenced to probation and issued a $150,000 fine

Pieper Lewis More News

A Des Moines teen who pleaded guilty to killing her alleged rapist in June 2020 will be sentenced Wednesday in a Polk County Courtroom.

Pieper Lewis, 17, was charged with killing Zachary Brooks in the early hours of June 1, 2020, when she was 15 years old. Brooks, 37, of Des Moines allegedly raped her multiple times in the weeks before Lewis killed him following another alleged assault, according to court records.

Lewis was charged with first-degree murder after her arrest on June 2, 2020.

She killed Brooks by grabbing a knife from a bedside table and stabbing him 30 times, but wrote in a plea agreement that she did not plan his murder and was overcome with “rage” after Brooks raped her yet again.

She will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Wednesday in a courtroom at the Polk County Criminal Courthouse, 110 6th Ave. 

The Des Moines Register does not typically name victims of sex crimes, but Lewis agreed to have her name used previously in stories about her case.

Lewis, who graduated from high school in July while in juvenile detention, agreed to plead guilty in adult court in June 2021 to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury.  She faces up to 10 years in prison on each charge.

Prosecutors have never disputed claims that Lewis was sexually assaulted or trafficked in court or in court documents. 

Des Moines Police detectives were curious from the beginning about Lewis’ sexual relations with much older men, according to court records. Iowa’s age for sexual consent is 16 years old. Teens ages 14 and 15 can consent with people within 48 months of their age, according to Iowa law. 

Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek said in November that with extremely violent crimes like Lewis it is common for officers to learn of other crimes. Given Lewis’ age, sex between Brooks and Lewis would be a crime, he said. Human trafficking cases are some of the most complex and lengthy cases the department confronts, Parizek said in November. 

“With all criminal investigations, gathering the evidence necessary to support an accusation and to meet the standard to file criminal charges, can take some time,” Parizek said in November.

Under Iowa law perpetrators of homicides must pay victims’ families $150,000. In a July 20 court filing, Lewis’ attorneys Matthew Sheeley, Paul White and Magdalena Reese asked a Polk County judge to deny Brooks’ estate from the $150,000 because Lewis was an alleged sex trafficking victim. 

“By subjecting the defendant to human trafficking and sexual abuse on June 1, 2020, the decedent was at least 51% at fault for his own damages,” the filing said. “Such an award, as applied to this defendant and to these circumstances, would result in an excessive fine and cruel and unusual punishment.”

Pieper Lewis Other News

A teenage human trafficking victim who was initially charged with first-degree murder after she stabbed her accused rapist to death was sentenced Tuesday in an Iowa court to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family.

Pieper Lewis was originally charged with first-degree murder for the stabbing death of Zachary Brooks in 2020. The 17-year-old was charged in the death of 37-year-old Brooks, who she claims raped her multiple times in the weeks before his death. She had faced the possibility of 20 years in prison.

Lewis pleaded last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. Both charges were punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Polk County District judge David M. Porter on Tuesday deferred those prison sentences, meaning that if Lewis violates any portion of her probation, she could be sent to prison to serve that 20-year term.

As for being required to pay the estate of her rapist, “this court is presented with no other option,” Porter said, noting the restitution is mandatory under Iowa law that has been upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Lewis was 15 when she stabbed Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment. Officials have said Lewis was a runaway who was seeking to escape an abusive life with her adopted mother and was sleeping in the hallways of a Des Moines apartment building when a 28-year-old man took her in before forcibly trafficking her to other men for sex.

Lewis said one of those men was Brooks and that he had raped her multiple times in the weeks before his death. She recounted being forced at knifepoint by the 28-year-old man to go with Brooks to his apartment for sex. She told officials that after Brooks had raped her yet again, she grabbed a knife from a bedside table and stabbed Brooks in a fit of rage.

Police and prosecutors have not disputed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked. But prosecutors have argued that Brooks was asleep at the time he was stabbed and not an immediate danger to Lewis.

Iowa is not among the dozens of states that have a so-called safe harbor law that gives trafficking victims at least some level of criminal immunity.

Lewis, who earned her GED while being held in juvenile detention, acknowledged in a statement prior to her sentencing that she struggled with the structure of her detention, including “why I was treated like fragile glass” or wasn’t allowed to communicate with her friends or family.

“My spirit has been burned, but still glows through the flames,” she read from a statement she had prepared. “Hear me roar, see me glow, and watch me grow.”

“I am a survivor,” she added.

The judge peppered Lewis with repeated requests to explain what poor choices she made that led up to Brooks’ stabbing and expressed concern that she sometimes did not want to follow rules set for her in juvenile lockup.

“The next five years of your life will be full of rules you disagree with, I’m sure of it,” Porter said. He later added, “This is the second chance that you’ve asked for. You don’t get a third.”

Her attorney said after the sentencing that they were extremely happy with the outcome.

“Very pleased at the court decision. Going into this case we assumed the worst she was initially charged with first-degree murder,” said Matt Sheeley.

Lewis’ attorney argued in court that requiring her to pay restitution to the family of the man who raped her was cruel and unusual punishment. Her attorney said that there may be action taken down the line, aimed at the current restitution precedent set at the Iowa Supreme Court. But added that this was a win.

“That is not the most important pressing concern that she has. She wants to move on with her life. She has got her entire life ahead of her. She has all these opportunities ahead of her. So the restitution is not really something she is bothered by at this point,” said Sheeley.

Lewis will be required to undergo mental health and substance abuse evaluation as well as GPS tracking and monitoring. She will not be eligible for early release from probation.

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