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Convicted Killer Teresa Lewis

A Case of Deceit, Sex, Greed and Murder

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Teresa Lewis

Teresa Lewis

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Was Teresa Lewis the mastermind behind the murders of her husband and stepson for insurance money or a woman with the mental capacity of a 13-year-old who was easily lead by her desire to please others? The court transcripts expose a lot of what the newspapers do not tell in this story of murder, greed, sexual manipulation and child abuse.

Teresa and Julian Lewis

In March or April 2000, Teresa Lewis (Lewis) met Julian Lewis (Julian) at Dan River, Inc., where they were both employed. Julian was a recent widower, having lost his wife and the mother of his three adult children to an extended illness in January of that year. In June 2000, Lewis moved in with Julian. They married soon after and Lewis quit working.

In December 2001, Julian’s son, Jason Clifton Lewis, was killed in an accident. Julian received life insurance proceeds in excess of $200,000, which he placed in an account that was only accessible by him. A few months later he purchased five acres of land and a mobile home where he and Lewis began to live.

In August 2002, Julian’s second son, C.J., an Army reservist, was required to report for active duty with the National Guard. Before leaving, C.J. made estate arrangements, including executing a will and obtaining a life insurance policy in the amount of $250,000. He designated Julian as his primary beneficiary and Lewis as his secondary beneficiary.

Shallenberger and Fuller

In the fall of 2002 Lewis met Matthew J. Shallenberger, 22, and Rodney L. Fuller, 19, for the first time while at a Wal-Mart store. Before long, Lewis began a sexual relationship with Shallenberger, who was 11 years her junior. On at least one occasion, however, Lewis performed a "lingerie show" for both men, and had sexual intercourse with Fuller as well as Shallenberger.

On another occasion, Lewis took her 16-year-old daughter with her to meet the men at a parking lot. Lewis introduced her daughter to Fuller and the two had sexual intercourse in one car while Lewis and Shallenberger had sexual intercourse in the other vehicle.

The Murder Plot

At some point, Lewis and Shallenberger began discussing a plan to kill Julian and share the money that Lewis would get upon his death. The first plan was put into motion on October 23, 2002. Lewis withdrew $1,200 from the bank and gave the money to the men to purchase the necessary guns and ammunition.

The plan was for the men to stop and kill Julian on the roadway and make the murder look like a robbery. The presence of another vehicle close to Julian during the trip home, however, made execution of the first plan impossible.

Undeterred, the conspirators quickly hatched a second plan to kill Julian. They also added a plan to murder C.J. when he returned home for his father’s funeral in order to share the proceeds from his life insurance policy as well. However, when Lewis learned that C.J. would be visiting at the mobile home on the evening of October 29-30, 2002, the decision was made to murder Julian and C.J. at the same time.

The Murder

In the early morning hours of October 30, 2002, Shallenberger and Fuller, armed with the shotguns purchased with Lewis’ money, entered the Lewis' mobile home through a rear door that Lewis had left unlocked for them.

Upon entering, Shallenberger woke Lewis, who had fallen asleep next to Julian while waiting, and told her to get up. She went into the kitchen where she waited while Shallenberger shot Julian several times with the shotgun. She then reentered the bedroom, where Julian lay mortally wounded but still alive, retrieved Julian’s pants and wallet, and returned to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Fuller went to C.J.’s bedroom and shot him several times with the second shotgun.

When Fuller returned to the kitchen, he saw Lewis and Shallenberger removing the money from Julian’s wallet. Apparently there was some uncertainty as to whether C.J. was dead, so Fuller took Shallenberger’s shotgun and returned to shoot C.J. two more times. After retrieving some of the shotgun shells, Shallenberger and Fuller left the mobile home.

For approximately 45 minutes after the last shots were fired, Lewis remained in the mobile home with the victims. She made at least two telephone calls to other persons, but did not call authorities.

Call to 911

At approximately 3:55 a.m., a 911 operator fielded a call from Lewis reporting that a single intruder had entered her home at approximately 3:15 or 3:30 a.m., and shot her husband and stepson. She told the 911 operator that the intruder entered the bedroom where she was sleeping with Julian and told her to get up. She claimed that Julian told her to go into the bathroom, where she hid while the intruder fired four or five times.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Lewis home at approximately 4:18 a.m. Lewis told the deputies that her husband’s body was on the floor in the master bedroom and that her stepson’s body was in the other bedroom. When the officers entered the master bedroom, however, they found Julian badly wounded, but still alive and talking. He "‘made slow moans’ and uttered, ‘Baby, baby, baby, baby.’"

Julian told the officers his name and, when asked "if he knew who had shot him . . . responded, ‘My wife knows who done this to me.’" While trying to assist the victims, one deputy observed Lewis talking on the telephone and heard Lewis "state, ‘I told C.J. about leaving that back door unlocked.’"

Julian died shortly thereafter, while still in the mobile home. When informed that Julian and C.J. were dead, Lewis did not appear to the officers to be upset.

‘I Miss You When You’re Gone’

Investigator Barrett and Investigator Isom with the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Lewis during their investigation of the murders. During one interview, Lewis claimed that Julian had physically assaulted her a few days before the murders, but denied killing him, having him killed, or knowing who killed him.

Lewis told the investigators that she and Julian had talked and prayed together before he went to bed that night, and that she told him she was going to the kitchen to pack his lunch for the next day. A lunch bag was found in the refrigerator with an attached note stating "’I love you. I hope you have a good day.’" She had also drawn a picture of a "smiley face" on the bag and inscribed "‘I miss you when you’re gone,’" in the smiley face.

Cashing In

Later that morning, Lewis called Mike Campbell, Julian’s supervisor at Dan River. She told Campbell that Julian had been murdered and asked for Julian’s paycheck. Campbell told Lewis that she could pick it up after 4:00 p.m. that day. The following day, Lewis contacted Campbell again, apologized for not picking up the check the day before, and again asked when she could get it.

Campbell later testified that Julian brought his lunch to work in a blue and white cooler and did not use lunch bags. He also testified that when he went to pay his respects to Lewis in person a couple of days later, Lewis told him that Julian had bought her a red sports car before he was killed, but that she was going to trade it along with one of his vehicles for a larger car. She also told Campbell that she planned to sell Julian’s land and mobile home.

Also on the day of the murders, Lewis spoke with Lieutenant Michael Booker, C.J.’s commanding officer. When Lt. Booker called Lewis to express his condolences, Lewis told him that she was "‘still in shock’" and that the police had been questioning her. She told Lt. Booker that "there is no way I would have killed my husband and stepson. They guessed that because I didn’t get shot that I might have done it. My husband told me to go into the bathroom, so I did."

Lewis then informed Lt. Booker that she was the secondary beneficiary of C.J.’s military life insurance policy and that she had been told that she would be contacted within 24 hours of his death with information regarding when she would get her money.

Kathy Clifton

On November 4, 2002, Lewis contacted Lt. Booker and requested C.J.’s personal effects and a photograph of C.J. that she had given Lt. Booker for a memorial service. Lt. Booker told Lewis that he would return the photograph to her, but that the personal effects would be given to C.J.’s sister Kathy Clifton, his immediate next of kin. Lt. Booker testified that Lewis became "very angry" and "insisted that Lt. Booker bring them to her as soon as possible."

When Lt. Booker refused, Lewis again asked about the life insurance money and "reminded him that she was the secondary beneficiary." When Lt. Booker told Lewis that she would still be entitled to the life insurance, Lewis responded, "‘that’s fine, Kathy can have all of his effects as long as I get the money.’"

Julian’s daughter Kathy also testified about her dealings with Lewis immediately after the murders. Lewis told Kathy that she had waited 45 minutes after the murders to call 911, and that she called her ex-mother-in-law, Marie Bean, and her best friend, Debbie Yeatts, prior to doing so.

Lewis also called Kathy on the night of the murders and told her that she had already gone over the necessary arrangements with the funeral home. Lewis told Kathy that all she needed were the names of some of Julian’s family members, and that Kathy need not even come to the funeral home the following day.

When Kathy joined Lewis at the funeral home the next day anyway, she recalled Lewis saying that "she was the sole beneficiary of everything" and that "money was no object."

A Braggarts Demise

On the day of the funerals, Lewis called Kathy prior to the services and told her "that she had just left the hairdresser’s and had gotten her nails done, and that she had bought a beautiful suit to wear to the funeral." She also offered to sell Julian’s mobile home to Kathy.

In addition to her attempts to obtain Julian’s paycheck, Lewis also made a quick attempt to withdraw $50,000 from Julian’s Prudential Securities’ account by presenting a forged check made payable to her at the bank. The bank employee refused to cash the check because the signature did not match Julian’s signature in the bank’s records.

Finally, and consistent with Lewis’s immediate attempts to obtain the cash payoff from the murders, the investigators learned that Lewis was aware prior to the murders that she would handsomely profit from the deaths of her husband and stepson. She had earlier told an acquaintance that she was "just ‘using Julian for money and that he would buy her things.’"

Another acquaintance overheard her saying a couple of months before the murders that "if Julian died, ‘she would get the money, and if C.J. was killed and Julian was dead, she would get that money, too.’"

Confession

On November 7, 2002, Lewis, presented with the rapidly accumulating evidence against her, confessed to Investigator Isom that she had offered Shallenberger money to kill Julian.

Lewis told Isom that she met Shallenberger at Wal-Mart and let him into their home on the night of the murders. However, she falsely claimed that Shallenberger shot both Julian and C.J. before taking the money and leaving the mobile home.

She told Isom that Shallenberger had expected to receive half of the insurance proceeds, but that she had changed her mind and decided to keep all of the money. Lewis then accompanied Isom to Shallenberger’s residence, where she identified him as her co-conspirator.

The following day, Lewis asked to speak with Isom and admitted that she had not been totally truthful the day before. Lewis confessed Fuller’s involvement in the murders and advised Isom that her minor daughter had assisted during the planning process as well.

Autopsies

According to the autopsies, Julian and C.J. both died as a direct result of the multiple shotgun wounds. Julian was struck in "the upper left arm, shoulder, abdomen, pelvis, penis, thighs, legs, arms, and chest. The bullets destroyed or removed large areas of tissue in his upper arm, shoulder, and upper chest, and fractured several ribs." In addition, "plastic wadding from a shotgun shell was lodged in Julian’s left lung tissue."

However, none of Julian’s injuries were immediately fatal, and Julian instead "died from extensive blood loss" approximately 45 minutes to an hour after the shootings. Id. C.J. was struck in the "back, abdomen, chest, neck, left upper arm and shoulder, elbow, left thigh, face, and forearm," but died almost immediately from his wounds.

Lewis' Pleads Guilty

Shortly after Lewis was charged for her participation in the murder-for-hire plot, the trial judge appointed attorneys David Furrow and Thomas Blaylock to represent her, both of whom had experience in capital murder cases.

After investigating the case, counsel became extremely concerned about the heinous facts surrounding this intimate, murder-for-hire and -profit crime and their dim prospects for preventing a death penalty verdict by a Pittsylvania County jury.

Given their knowledge of the assigned trial judge and of juries generally in the county, they became convinced that Lewis’ best chance of avoiding the death penalty would be to submit to sentencing by the trial judge, who had never imposed the death penalty on a capital defendant and who would be sentencing Fuller, a triggerman, to life imprisonment under an agreement he had made with the prosecution for his cooperation against Shallenberger and Lewis.

Under Virginia law, if a defendant pleads guilty to capital murder, the trial judge conducts the sentencing proceeding without a jury. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the trial court may determine the case only with the consent of the defendant and concurrence of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, counsel recommended that Lewis plead guilty and invoke her statutory right to be sentenced by the trial judge.

Lewis' IQ

Prior to the guilty plea proceeding, a competency assessment of Lewis was performed by Barbara G. Haskins, M.D., a board-certified forensic psychiatrist, who also arranged for an IQ test to be performed by Dr. Bernice Marcopulos.

According to the testing, Lewis had a Full Scale IQ of 72, with a Verbal IQ of 70, and a Performance IQ of 79. This placed her in the borderline range of intellectual functioning, but not at or below the level of mental retardation.

Dr. Haskins reported that Lewis was competent to enter the pleas and able to understand and appreciate the possible penalties.

At the guilty plea proceeding, the trial judge questioned Lewis and ensured that she understood that she was waiving her right to a jury and that she would be sentenced to either life imprisonment or death by the trial judge.

Satisfied that Lewis was entering the plea voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently, the trial judge accepted the plea and scheduled the sentencing proceeding.

Sentencing

At the conclusion of the sentencing proceeding, the trial judge imposed sentences of death for the capital offenses based upon the vileness aggravator, finding that Lewis’ conduct involved both depravity of mind and aggravated battery.

In imposing the sentences of death, the trial judge acknowledged that the case was made more difficult by the fact that Lewis had led the police to Shallenberger and Fuller and pleaded guilty to her crimes, as well as by the fact that Fuller would receive a life sentence for his part in the plot. However, the trial judge found that Lewis, as wife and stepmother to the victims, had engaged in the "cold blooded, pitiless slaying of two men, horrible and inhumane" for profit, which "fits the definition of the outrageous or wantonly vile, horrible, act."

Of particular significance, the trial judge noted the "cold" lack of emotion displayed by Lewis, and the fact that there was "no other motivation for these killings except greed" with "no thought on her part of what she was doing other than these two murders and what she would receive once they were deceased."

The trial judge also found it significant that Lewis had "lured men and her juvenile daughter into her web of deceit and sex and greed and murder, and within an incredibly short period of time from meeting the men, she had recruited them, been involved in planning and completing these murders, and within one week before the actual murders had one failed attempt on Julian’s life."

Finally, he paid particular note to the fact that, "while her husband lay dying . . . in the bedroom, Lewis was out apparently writing a love note to him to put in the refrigerator, splitting up the money from the deceased’s wallet with the co-defendants in the kitchen and waiting for Julian to die."

Based upon the evidence, the trial judge was "convinced that Lewis waited until she thought Julian was dead before she called the police" and "that she allowed him to suffer . . . without any feelings at all, with absolute coldness." He called her "the head of this serpent."

Source: Teresa Wilson Lewis v. Barbara J. Wheeler, Warden, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

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