Teen human trafficking victim, who pleaded guilty to killing rapist, escapes custody in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa authorities say an 18-year-old sex trafficking victim, who pleaded guilty to killing a man she said raped her, escaped from a women's center where she was serving her probation sentence.
Pieper Lewis was seen walking out of the building at the Fresh Start Women's Center in Des Moines shortly after 6:15 a.m. Friday, and at some point that day her GPS monitor was cut off, according to a probation violation report.
A warrant was issued for Lewis' arrest and the probation report asked for her deferred judgment to be revoked and have her original sentence imposed, KCCI reported. She could face up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors had called the probation sentence she was given in September merciful for a teen who endured horrible abuse, although some questioned the $150,000 restitution she was ordered to pay. A GoFundMe campaign raised over $560,000 to cover the restitution and pay for her other needs.
PREVIOUS: Iowa judge orders teenage human trafficking victim to pay $150K in restitution to family of rapist she killed
During Lewis' sentencing, Polk County Judge David Porter told the teen that her probation sentence "was the second chance you asked for. You don’t get a third."
If Lewis had successfully completed five years of closely supervised probation her prison sentence would have been expunged.
Pieper Lewis speaks in court during her sentencing. (Courtesy: WOI)
Lewis pleaded 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.
The teen 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.
RELATED: 20 arrested after Indiana child sex sting operation
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.
Prosecutors took issue with Lewis calling herself a victim in the case and said she failed to take responsibility for stabbing Brooks and "leaving his kids without a father."
She said she regretted the stabbing, "but to say there is one victim is absurd."
READ: Powerball jackpot soars to $1.9 billion after no winner Saturday night
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 Associated Press contributed to this report.