DES MOINES, IOWA — A Des Moines woman who was convicted for killing the man she say had sexually assaulted her as a teen won’t serve any more jail time after walking away from custody last year.

Pieper Lewis was convicted last fall of Willful Injury for the stabbing death of Zachary Brooks. Lewis was 17 at the time, Brooks was 37. Lewis says Brooks had raped her numerous times before she killed him in his sleep. Lewis was originally charged with First Degree Murder but prosecutors agreed to a lesser charge.

After her conviction, Lewis was given a deferred 20-year sentence and put on five years probation. That probation required her to perform community and live at the Fresh Start Women’s Center in Des Moines.

In November 2022, Lewis cut off her tracking bracelet and was placed on escape status after walking away from the center. She was later found nearby. She pleaded guilty to escaping and has remained in custody since then.

On Wednesday, Lewis was re-sentenced to 20-years in prison – but that sentence was immediately deferred and Lewis was placed back on probation for five years. She will remain in the custody of the Iowa Department of Correctional Services until she can be placed in a treatment facility.

Polk County Attorney Kimberly Graham released a lengthy statement in support of those decisions on Wednesday:

“I support the ruling of Judge Porter to suspend the prison sentence for Pieper Lewis and place her on probation, as well as order her to the Iowa Department of Correctional Services for an appropriate facility for treatment.

The State has learned a great deal from experts about the behavior of people who have been exploited, sexually abused, or trafficked. The State notes that while she left the Fresh Start Center, Ms. Lewis did not harm anyone during the time she was away from the center, and that she was found back in the same general neighborhood, sitting on a swing in a park.

The State has also learned about the likely outcomes people who have been trafficked or exploited who are sent to prison. They are vulnerable — and more likely to become victims again while incarcerated. They do not usually receive the kind of support and services they need to begin heal and move forward in their lives. 

Conversely, when people who have been exploited and trafficked receive the right support, they can move forward to successful lives. 

The State has carefully considered the safety of our community and the community at large and the lasting harm to Mr. Brooks and his family. In reports by two psychologists, one before the initial sentencing and one very recently, both concluded that Ms. Lewis does not display any heightened risk for physical violence. In Dr. Kinscherff’s report (July 2021), he stated, “Physical violence would be rare for an individual (incarcerated) with these scores.“

Dr. Kinscherff also stated, “Pieper is currently at very low to low risk of violent criminal perpetration in the community at baseline.”

Dr. Eiler’s report from April 2023 indicates Ms. Lewis tested within “normal limits for thoughts likely to predispose her to violent acts.” Additionally, her results on the Structured Assessment of Violence in Youth identified “age-appropriate ability to manage expressions of anger.”

In short, Ms. Lewis is not at high risk for violence. She would be especially vulnerable to being revictimized should she remain incarcerated.

Ms. Lewis has now served about three years in detention or jail.

In her April 2023 letter to court, Ms. Lewis outlined what she needs to succeed. The State believes she will succeed.”

Kimberly Graham, Polk County Attorney