Homeless Des Moines teen faces prison time for escaping her rapist by killing him
In the predawn hours on June 1, 2020, Pieper Lewis looked at her rapist as he slept, and she snapped.
Lewis, then 15, grabbed a knife from the bedside table and stabbed Zachary Brooks 30 times. Her attorney described the attack, which left Brooks with stab wounds to his chest, arms and groin, as "overkill." Des Moines police detective Jason Hays said in juvenile court that it was among the most violent crimes he’d ever seen.
Lewis, now 17, pleaded guilty in adult court to killing Brooks and could spend up to 20 years in prison.
But Lewis and her attorneys say there's more to the story. She says that before she killed Brooks, he had raped her multiple times.
She had been kicked out of her home and taken in by a man who coerced her to have sex with Brooks and other men, her attorneys contend. That makes her a classic victim of sex trafficking, experts on the issue say. But nothing in court records shows that police have investigated her alleged exploitation, a common response that allows human trafficking to flourish and its perpetrators to go unpunished, sexual violence prevention experts said.