Date of Crime: May 23, 1984
George Allen Lewis was convicted of the rape and murder of a
36-year-old neighbor, Karen Gregory. Gregory lived at the corner of 27
Ave. and Upton St. in Gulfport, FL. Around 1 a.m. on May 23, 1984,
more than a dozen of Gregory's neighbors heard a loud piercing scream.
Most paid little attention, but on the morning of the 24th, Gregory was
found raped and brutally murdered. When interviewed later, Lewis said
that upon hearing the scream he walked towards Gregory's house to
investigate, but turned around after he failed to see anything suspicious.
Lewis was a firefighter and a neighborhood crime watch volunteer. He
had a crime watch sign in his yard. Lewis had a sterling reputation
and was friends with the case investigator, Detective Larry Tosi.
When questioned eight months later, Lewis changed his story, saying he just
walked to the front of his house and did not walk along the street. He
was then asked to take a lie detector test, which he failed. After
being told that he failed, he changed his story again. He also gave
slightly different stories after two more lie detector tests. Two
years after the murder, Detective Tosi had a crime scene photo of what
appeared to be a bloody (barefoot) footprint enlarged and compared to
Lewis's footprint. The forensic comparers reported a match.
Lewis then admitted it was his footprint and that he entered Gregory's house
following the murder to investigate, but said he did not murder Gregory.
Gregory's body was found outside a bathroom. Lewis's bloody footprint
was found inside the bathroom. At trial Lewis said that after he
entered Gregory's house and came upon the body, he got sick and entered the
bathroom to vomit in the toilet. Afterwards he ran like a scared
rabbit. He said that later, during the investigation, he tried to be
helpful, but thought it best not to mention that he walked through the
murder scene. To construct a motive, the prosecution speculated that
routine everyday tensions caused Lewis to snap and commit the brutal
rape-murder. Lewis's family and fellow firefighters strongly maintain
Lewis was an Emergency Medical Technician and a documented proclivity for
intervening in situations to aid others. There was some evidence that
Lewis left numerous footprints on the carpet around Gregory's body (as
revealed by Luminol testing), suggesting that he spent additional time in
Gregory's house, either attempting to aid her or perhaps killing her.
It is not likely that the killer had much blood on his feet as it would have
taken time for blood to drain from Gregory's body onto the floor where it
could be stepped on.
Lewis had legitimate reason to fear that reporting the crime would lead to
the murder being pinned on him. He was in the wrong place at the wrong
time and had stepped in the victim’s blood. Since Lewis was clearly in
an incriminating situation, his failure to report the crime cannot be used
as evidence of guilt.
Also, rather than implicate him in the crime, Lewis's false stories tend to
exonerate him. Had he planned the crime beforehand, he likely would
have snuck up to the victim's house, worn a disguise, or taken some
precaution so that a neighbor could not identify him. Then when
questioned later about the crime, he would deny knowing anything about it.
In actual fact, when questioned, Lewis acknowledged walking along the street
to investigate the scream. His acknowledgment implied that he was
fearful that a neighbor might have seen him on the street and he did not
want to be caught in a lie by denying everything. Even that
acknowledgement he apparently did not want to make. After talking to
Detective Tosi and finding out that no neighbor saw him, he changed his
story eight months after the crime to say he only walked to the front of his
Lewis's case features several unlikely circumstances, each of which leads to
doubt about his guilt: (1) a person of no known or accused criminal history
committing a brutal rape-murder; (2) a person committing this crime at a
house catty-corner to his own, rather than in a distant neighborhood; (3)
the victim giving an unlikely and corroborated alert to the neighborhood
through her scream, allowing the supposed killer to claim that the alert
drew him to the scene; (4) the killer being an Emergency Medical Technician
who was known for intervening in situations to aid others; (5) the killer
committing the crime barefoot, suggesting the the crime was unplanned.
At the time of the murder Gregory had just moved into the house, which was
owned by her boyfriend. It was the first night she stayed in it when
her boyfriend was absent; he was in Rhode Island on business. These
atypical circumstances suggest the killer had previously met her, had a
desire for her, had been in the house before, and was acquainted enough with
her or her friends to know that she would be staying there alone. A
half day after her murder, an alternate suspect came to the house and left a
note on the boyfriend's car, saying he stopped by but “saw no signs of
life.” When questioned this suspect had a long scratch on his hand, but
reportedly had an alibi.
Following Lewis' convictions for rape and murder, the trial judge overturned
the convictions. The judge's reasoning was that Florida law required
the evidence against Lewis to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of
innocence. In addition, since the evidence also only suggested but did
not prove that Gregory was raped, the judge entered a verdict of acquittal
for that charge. The prosecution appealed the decision and got both
the murder and rape convictions reinstated. Lewis received a life
sentence that left him eligible for parole in 2010. A 1992 book was
written about the case, entitled
Unanswered Cries by Thomas French. The book reports both
sides of the case and while it accepts the verdict, it does not express any
strong opinions on the part of the author. [8/08]
Victims of the State,
Central Florida Cases,
Failed to Report Body