Virginia executes Teresa Lewis for role in slayings of husband, stepson in 2002
Thursday, September 23, 2010; 11:36 PM
JARRATT, VA. - Teresa Lewis, who plotted with her young lover to kill her husband and stepson for insurance money, became the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly 100 years Thursday night when she was killed by lethal injection.
Lewis, 41, was a mother who became a grandmother behind bars. Wearing a light blue prison-issued shirt and dark blue pants, Lewis looked anxious as she was led by officers into the death chamber at 8:55 p.m. She was placed on a white gurney, with leather straps securing her ankles, legs, wrists and chest, before intravenous lines were attached to each arm.
Lewis asked whether Kathy Clifton, the daughter and sister of her victims, was in the chamber.
"I just want Kathy to know that I love you, and I'm very sorry," Lewis said before the drugs were pumped into her arms. Her feet, clad in flip-flops, twitched, but no other movement was visible. Her spiritual adviser, Julie Perry, cried as she stood in the back of the witness room.
Lewis was pronounced dead at 9:13 p.m.
Lewis's case generated passion and interest across the world. The European Union asked Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to commute her sentence to life, citing her mental capacity. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cited the case at an appearance in New York.
The case began on an October night nearly eight years ago, when Lewis prayed with her husband, slipped into bed next to him in their Danville trailer and waited for her two conspirators to come inside the door she had left unlocked. The two men showed up about 3:15 a.m., opened fire, then fled.
After the shooting, Lewis waited about half an hour to call 911. Her stepson, Charles "C.J." Lewis, died quickly. But her husband, Julian Lewis, whose body was riddled with birdshot, was alive and moaning "baby, baby, baby" when police arrived.
At first, Lewis told officers the shooting was the work of an unknown intruder dressed in black. But she eventually confessed that she and her lover, Matthew Shallenberger, then 22, killed for money. She led police to Shallenberger and a second gunman and ultimately admitted her crimes in court.
Lewis is the 12th woman to be executed in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. The most recent was in Texas in 2005, when Frances Newton was killed by lethal injection for shooting her husband and two children.
Although the fight for Lewis's life did not draw nearly the attention of that surrounding Karla Faye Tucker, the pickax killer turned born-again Christian executed in 1998, more than 5,500 people signed an electronic petition asking McDonnell to spare her.
The Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church and the ARC of Virginia, which advocates for people with mental disabilities, were among the groups that urged that Lewis's sentence be commuted to life in prison.