Pieper Lewis, the Iowa teenage sex trafficking victim sentenced to probation for fatally stabbing her alleged rapist, was taken back into custody on Tuesday after escaping from a residential corrections facility, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The 18-year-old had been serving her probation at the Des Moines women’s center after receiving a deferred judgment for entering a guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter and willful injury. Lewis murdered her alleged rapist when she was 15 years old.
The Iowa Department of Corrections said in a statement that the teen was found in Des Moines. According to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office official, Lewis has since been detained at the Polk County Jail and will appear in court for violating her probation.
Lewis allegedly escaped from the facility on November 4. Jerry Evans, executive director of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Corrections, told CNN that Lewis escaped after cutting her electronic monitoring device.
In the wake of Lewis’ disappearance, a “probation violation report” was filed against her. And besides asking for a warrant for Lewis’ arrest, the report recommended that the teen’s probation be revoked.
“It is further ordered that her deferred judgments (be) revoked and original sentence imposed,” the report also stated.
According to the report, an alarm went off at the facility around 6 a.m., alerting workers to a door that had been opened. Lewis was later seen leaving the facility by a staff member.
According to The Associated Press, authorities initially charged Lewis with first-degree murder in the death of Brooks in 2020. However, she received a five-year probation sentence in November after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. Lewis, who pleaded guilty last year, faced up to 20 years in prison. Lewis was also informed that any violation of her probationary conditions could result in her being imprisoned.
In addition to ordering Lewis to pay $150,000 in restitution to Brooks’ family, the judge sentenced her to 200 hours of community service and over $4,000 in civil penalties. Polk County District Judge David M. Porter explained the restitution Lewis was ordered to pay at the time, saying that the “court is presented with no other option” because the Iowa Supreme Court upheld an Iowa law that makes restitution mandatory.
Lewis was in an apartment with her alleged rapist when she stabbed him over 30 times. She was 15 years old at the time of the incident. Lewis, according to officials, was subjected to an abusive lifestyle while living with her adopted mother and fled as a result. She ended up sleeping in the hallways of a Des Moines apartment complex. The Associated Press reported that a 28-year-old man eventually allowed her to stay with him, but he later forced her to have sex with other men by trafficking her.
Lewis identified Brooks as one of the men to whom she was trafficked. Lewis also claimed that Brooks raped her several times in the weeks leading up to the fatal incident. The teen also claimed that the 28-year-old man threatened her with a knife and forced her to accompany Brooks to his home for sex. Lewis told authorities that she fatally stabbed Brooks after he sexually assaulted her again, and that her actions were motivated by rage.
The teen’s claim that she was trafficked and sexually assaulted has not been challenged by authorities. However, prosecutors claim Lewis fatally stabbed Brooks while he was sleeping and did not pose a sudden threat to the teen at the time.
Some states in the United States have enacted a safe harbor law, which grants victims of human trafficking some criminal immunity. However, Iowa lacks such legislation.