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Former firefighter George Lewis, convicted in 1984 Gulfport murder, dies in prison

George Lewis on the stand during his murder trial. [Times files]
George Lewis on the stand during his murder trial. [Times files]
Published Dec. 30, 2015

George Lewis, the Gulfport man convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1984 stabbing death of his neighbor, has died in prison. He was 52.

"I'm deeply saddened by George's passing," said Bob Paver, one of Lewis' original defense attorneys. "I hope for some measure of closure for his family and loved ones, as I do for the family and loved ones of Karen Gregory."

Gregory, a 36-year-old graphic artist who lived in Gulfport with her boyfriend, was attacked in her home in the early hours of May 23, 1984. More than a dozen neighbors heard her scream, but none called police.

SPECIAL REPORT: A Cry in the Night, the Murder of Karen Gregory

Lewis, then a 22-year-old St. Petersburg firefighter, lived across the street from Gregory and told police he too heard her cry that night. A long and difficult investigation followed, leaving detectives stumped.

It wasn't until two years later, in March 1986, that Lewis was arrested by a detective who happened to be a close friend. Lewis was convicted of first-degree murder and sexual battery and sentenced to life in prison.

Lewis and his attorneys pursued appeal after appeal and the Innocence Project of Florida even took on his case, but all efforts to free him from prison failed. Lewis was serving his term at the Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach at the time of his death Sunday, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website.

Paver, who kept in contact with Lewis and represented him pro bono in the years since the conviction, said he was unsure of the cause of death.

The Times wrote at length about the case in A Cry in the Night, a series published in 1986 and 1988, which was later turned into a book.

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow her @kemettler.

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