Monday, November 20, 2017
Public safety

Five years later, detectives still looking for clues in murder of St. Pete teen found in woods near Brooksville

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BROOKSVILLE — Five years ago this month, Hernando County deputies discovered the body of a 19-year-old St. Petersburg woman in the woods north of Brooksville.

Since then, investigators have tracked down hundreds of leads, scoured social networking sites and blanketed Hernando and St. Petersburg with fliers offering a reward for information. Yet detectives still don't have a suspect in the murder of Dominique Lewis.

Now they're renewing a call for the public's help.

"We're just hoping somebody knows a little bit more about her associates," said Hernando sheriff's Detective James Boylan. "Somebody has to know something."

Investigators still have the hunch they've always had.

"There's a high likelihood that whoever killed her has ties to Hernando County," Boylan said.

The oldest of five siblings, Lewis attended Pinellas Park High. At the time of her death, she was enrolled at Ultimate Medical Academy in Clearwater with plans to become a nurse.

That fall, Lewis was living with her mother, Mary Thomas, at 635 26th Ave. S, and dating a man named Jeremy Grisby. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Lewis gathered her belongings and left.

That was the last time Mary Thomas would see her daughter alive.

Thomas couldn't be reached this week, but she told the Tampa Bay Times in early 2008 that she and her daughter had argued because Lewis wanted to let Grisby move in with them.

Investigators say Lewis checked into a room at the Bay Breeze Motel, 3900 34th St. S in St. Petersburg, on Nov. 20. Grisby was staying there, too. He told detectives he last saw her at the motel around Nov. 29.

Not long after that, a friend noticed Lewis' white 1994 Ford Probe in the parking lot of Fat Boys Beauty Supply Store at 301 34th St. N. The friend left a note asking Lewis to meet at another friend's place. She never showed.

Her body was found about a week later, on Dec. 11, 2007, roughly 75 miles away in an isolated thicket off Brooksville Rock Road.

Bodies have been dumped off U.S. 19, Interstate 75 and State Road 50, but this spot struck investigators as peculiar, Boylan said. It seems likely the suspect or suspects knew the area.

Otherwise, Boylan said, "It's extremely risky going down those roads."

Investigators have not said how Lewis was killed because there are details about the crime that only her killer would know.

Detectives identified Grisby as a person of interest. Three days after Lewis' body was found, he was jailed in Pinellas County on an unrelated charge of sexual battery. The charge was later dismissed.

Grisby is no longer actively being investigated, Boylan said.

In the months leading up to her death, Lewis was using Internet dating sites, the social networking site MySpace and a singles telephone service called QuestChat. She made contact with people from around the area, including Hernando and Pasco counties, Orlando and St. Petersburg.

Those contacts have proved difficult or impossible to track, Boylan said. Lewis was using other people's cellphones and did not have her own computer.

In February of this year, the Sheriff's Office mailed about 10,000 fliers to St. Petersburg addresses in areas where Lewis frequented. The effort resulted in few helpful leads.

"We want to bring the killer to justice and give the victim's family closure, which is long overdue," Boylan said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.

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