crimesider

Teresa Lewis Pleads for Her Life: Only Female on Va. Death Row Says She Wasn't Mastermind

Teresa Lewis, 34, in this undated photo, pleaded guilty to two counts of capital murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder after admitting she hired two men to kill her husband, Julian Lewis, and her stepson, C.J. Lewis so she could collect insurance money. She was sentenced to death Tuesday, June 3, 2003, for the killings. AP

Teresa Lewis (AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (CBS/AP) Teresa Lewis pleaded guilty to murder in 2002 for masterminding a plot that left her husband and stepson dead. Prosecutors said her intent was to collect the insurance money and inherit her husband's estate.

Shortly after that, Lewis became the first female death row inmate in Virginia in more than 90 years, but her appeals attorneys argued Tuesday that she should be spared the death penalty, because she was too dependent on drugs and other people to mastermind anything.

James Rocap, Lewis' attorney, argued that her trial attorneys should have presented hundreds of pages of medical and pharmaceutical records showing her increased dependency on prescription drugs following her mother's death, and expert testimony showing that a disorder made her especially dependent on men.

"She was not a person who could have come up with this," Rocap said.

Katherine Burnett, a senior assistant attorney general, painted an entirely different picture of Lewis, saying that she bragged to two friends that she was marrying Julian Lewis, Jr. for his money, came up with the idea to kill him and his 25-year-old son, Charles, and offered the two gunmen sex in return for helping her as well as buying the weapons used in the crime.

The gunmen, Rodney Fuller and Matthew Shallenberger, were sentenced to life in prison.

Lewis' daughter, Christie Lynn Bean, who was 16 at the time, served five years because she knew about the plan but remained silent.

David Furrow, Lewis' defense attorney when she pleaded guilty in 2002, said he had expected the judge to sentence Lewis to life in prison.

But at her sentencing, Circuit Court Judge Charles Strauss said that she appeared cold and emotionless throughout the proceedings, that she seemed to have no other motive besides financial gain, that he saw her as a continuing threat to society, and sentenced her to death.

  • Carlin Miller

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now