George Lewis

Pinellas County, Florida
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 his innocence.

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 house.

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]


Reference:  American Justice

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Central Florida Cases, Failed to Report Body