Matt Lewis was beaten to death more than three years ago.
My heart broke again when I read today's Lakeland Ledger article, but Matt's family faces the pain and sadness every day. May they find peace in knowing they have done all within their power to honor Matt and his life.
The Lewises are my friends. We lived next door to them when Matt was only pre-school age, and we sometimes watched one or all three of the boys when needed.
Bob and Cathy were wonderful, loving parents who did all the right things in raising their sons, spending countless hours of involvement with their education, sports and scouting, including projects for the Eagle Scout award, for example. They taught their kids, and other children as well, to respect others and to play by the rules.
Yet the rules haven't applied to Matt's death. Neither those who killed him nor the criminal "justice" system seem to be accountable. I won't even pretend to have an unbiased opinion. So you decide:
Believe it or not, there's a video tape of events that night, including comments made following the beating:
- Matthew Lewis, 18, died after attending a friend's Nov. 16, 2002 birthday party in Tampa.
- Eyewitnesses said the former wrestling team captain and 2002 graduate of Bartow High School was trying to break up a fight over spilled beer.
- An autopsy report listed Lewis' death as "homicide beaten by other(s)."
- However, the two suspects in the attack -- Ryan Racine and Jeremy Ray -- face charges of misdemeanor battery, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
- Prosecutors say they could not seek more serious charges because they were "unable to determine who threw the fatal blow.''
Esparza can be heard saying, "I thought we killed the kid because we were beating the (expletive) out of him."
He also said "we were beating the (expletive) out of him for like a whole minute" and the kid's face "looked like he was dead."
Later, during a deposition, Esparza -- who described himself as being "best friends" with Ray through high school -- was shown the videotape.
He agreed that was his voice but said he didn't know what "kid" he was referring to that night. "I really don't remember," he said.
Articles and photos:
Update, Feb. 3, 2007 . . . .
BARTOW - Lakeland residents Bob and Cathy Lewis saw sentences handed down Thursday for the two men who brutally beat and stomped their youngest son to death.
Both men got the maximum allowable sentence, but the Lewises said they don't feel that they saw justice.
Ryan Christopher Racine and Jeremy Vincent Ray were charged with misdemeanors in the death of 18-year-old Bartow High School graduate Matthew Lewis. Racine, 25, was found guilty of three misdemeanor counts of battery, and received 364 days in the Hillsborough County Jail for each count, to be served consecutively.
Ray, 24, was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of battery, but he left the courtroom Wednesday when the jury was deliberating and never returned, so a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He was sentenced to 364 days in the Hillsborough County Jail.
"We're elated that there's accountability, but the way the law is written is wrong," Cathy Lewis said Friday night. "Those two are really just getting a slap on the wrist."
Lakeland Ledger report . . . .