43-year-old Tampa man, Lewis Matthews, was sentenced to life in prison by Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Fernandez today for sexually battering and molesting his girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter—then pouring bleach onto her genitals to try to destroy evidence of the crime.
Matthews was found guilty on June 4 following a three-day trial, with convictions for charges of sexual battery on a victim younger than 12, two counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim younger than 12, and tampering with physical evidence.
According to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, at 3:30 a.m. on April 13, 2019, the 10-year-old victim was sleeping on the floor in her living room. Matthews was visiting the home; he had been dating the victim’s mother for several years and was like a stepfather to her. Matthews approached the victim as she slept. He undressed her and then proceeded to molest and sexually batter her. The victim’s mother heard a noise and came downstairs. Stunned by what she discovered, the victim’s mother called 911.
As the victim’s mother was talking with a 911 dispatcher, Matthews quickly took the young victim and the two other children in the home and put them in the car. The victim’s mother screamed for them not to go, but Matthews drove off. Matthews headed to a nearby gas station and brought the victim inside the store. He directed her to go into the bathroom. Matthews went down the aisle, picked up a bottle of Clorox bleach, and joined the victim in the bathroom. Inside the bathroom, Matthews ordered the victim to remove her pants and underwear. He then splashed caustic bleach onto her genitals. Matthews took the victim’s underwear and threw them into a dumpster behind the store.
Matthews criminal attempt to destroy DNA evidence failed. Investigators from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office were able to locate Matthews’ DNA on the bleach-stained underwear, as well as the victim’s body, and other clothing.
“It’s heartbreaking to sit in court and watch a victim, who has been sexually abused by someone who is supposed to be caring for her, testify on the stand. That’s why I’m so proud of the work that our prosecutors do to hold these offenders accountable, stand up for the victims, and send these predators away for life,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said.