DES MOINES, Iowa — A Polk County Judge on Tuesday handed 17-year-old Pieper Lewis a deferred sentence, five years of probation, and 600 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty to killing a man she says repeatedly raped her.
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 made public statements in the courtroom on Tuesday after witness testimony was complete.
“Today my voice will be heard,” said Lewis, prior to her sentencing. “The story of Pieper Lewis holds power. The trauma of Pieper Lewis carries a ruptured beginning, tormented past, and a delayed future.”
Lewis was also questioned by Judge David Porter before his sentencing. He asked her about eventually opening up to talk about the alleged human trafficking and rape.
“I’m still in the healing process of everything so it was difficult for me to open up to everybody, but I feel like my story wasn’t believed at the moment,” said Lewis. A large portion of the testimony surrounded Lewis being timid at first and not being forthcoming about her story.
Lewis admits to the charges, as she pleaded guilty. She said in court that she feels bad for the grief she has caused Brooks’ family, but not actually the act of killing her alleged rapist.
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.
The judge is also requiring her to pay $150,000 in restitution to the family of Brooks. 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. The judge disagreed and said the law requires her to pay the restitution, despite the extraordinary circumstances of the case. 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.
“My story can change things. My story can change me,” said Lewis.