Des Moines teen sex trafficking victim who killed alleged rapist to be sentenced Wednesday

A Des Moines teenager who pleaded guilty to killing her alleged rapist in June 2020 will be sentenced Wednesday in a Polk County courtroom.

Pieper Lewis, 17, has been charged with murdering Zachary Brooks in the early hours of June 1, 2020, when she was 15. Brooks, 37, of Des Moines allegedly raped her several times in the weeks before Lewis killed him after another alleged assault, according to court records.

Pieper Lewis

Lewis was charged with first degree murder after her arrest on June 2, 2020.

She killed Brooks by grabbing a knife from a nightstand and stabbing him 30 times, but wrote in a plea agreement that she did not plan his murder and was overcome with “rage” after Brooks raped her again.

He will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Wednesday in a courtroom at the Polk County Criminal Courthouse, 110 6th Ave.

The Des Moines registry does not typically name victims of sex crimes, but Lewis has agreed to have her name used in stories about her case in the past.

Lewis, who graduated from high school in July while in juvenile detention, agreed to plead guilty in adult court in June 2021 to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.

More: A homeless Des Moines teenager who killed her alleged rapist faces 20 years in prison. She is also a victim, her lawyers say.

Pieper Lewis, center, earned her high school diploma on July 14.  Her attorneys Paul White, left, and Matthew Sheeley, right, presented Lewis with her diploma at the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center.

Pieper Lewis, center, earned her high school diploma on July 14. Her attorneys Paul White, left, and Matthew Sheeley, right, presented Lewis with her diploma at the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center.

Prosecutors never disputed the allegations that Lewis was sexually assaulted or trafficked in court or in court documents.

Des Moines police detectives were initially curious about Lewis’ sexual relationships with much older men, according to court records. Iowa’s age of sexual consent is 16. Teens ages 14 and 15 can consent to people within 48 months of their age, according to Iowa law.

Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek said in November that with extremely violent crimes like Lewis it’s common for officers to learn about other crimes. Given Lewis’ age, sex between Brooks and Lewis would have been a crime, he said. Human trafficking cases are some of the most complex and time-consuming cases the department deals with, Parizek said in November.

“With all criminal investigations, gathering the necessary evidence to support a charge and meet the standards for filing criminal charges can take some time,” Parizek said in November.

Under Iowa law, homicide perpetrators must pay the victims’ families $150,000. In a July 20 court filing, Lewis’ attorneys Matthew Sheeley, Paul White and Magdalena Reese asked a Polk County judge to deny Brooks’ estate $150,000 because Lewis was an alleged sex-trafficking victim.

“By subjecting the defendant to human trafficking and sexual abuse on June 1, 2020, the decedent was at least 51% at fault for his own damages,” the filing states. “Such an award, as applied to this defendant and in these circumstances, would result in an excessive fine and cruel and unusual punishment.”

Philip Joens covers public safety, city government and RAGBRAI for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-443-3347 at pjoens@registermedia.com or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Sex-trafficking victim Pieper Lewis to be sentenced for killing rapist

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