Lewis convicted in murder of woman

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2023

Faces 18 to life in death of Crabtree

An Ironton man was found guilty of murder after a three-day trial ended on Wednesday in the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Joseph Lewis was found guilty of murder, tampering with evidence, and violation of a protection order in a unanimous verdict by a jury. 

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Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said the state had seven people testify and that Lewis testified in his own defense.

Anderson said the jury didn’t find Lewis’ testimony credible and found him guilty after an hour and half of deliberation.

“He did not do well testifying,” Anderson said. “He probably would have been better off not testifying. He was just a liar and it was obvious.”

Anderson said they are happy for the verdict and that justice was done for the family of the victim, Jeri Crabtree, who was found dead in Lewis’ apartment.

Anderson said the cause of death was from 14 stab wounds, blunt force trauma to the head and neck and asphyxia, which indicated strangulation.

“It was bad. It was really bad,” Anderson said. “His defense was that she did it to herself.”

Lewis could face 18 years to life in prison on the charges.

“Murder only carries one sentence, which is 15 years to life in prison. And he gets an extra three years for tampering with evidence,” Anderson explained. “He will not be eligible to see the parole board until he has served 18 years.”

The sentencing hearing for Lewis is Monday at 1:30 p.m., and the sentence will be decided by Common Pleas Judge Andrew Ballard.

The case began on May 23, after the Ironton Police Department got a call around 4 a.m. about a fatal overdose at Lewis’ apartment at 116 ½ S. Seventh St.

Officers arrived and after knocking at the front door and getting no response, the officers looked in the kitchen window and saw a man and a woman lying on the kitchen floor.

They knocked on the window and were told to use the front door, which was unlocked. When they entered the building, officers saw Lewis sitting next to a Crabtree, 59, who appeared to have severe injuries. 

The officers handcuffed Lewis and called for medical assistance for Crabtree.

The Lawrence County Coroner’s Office was called to the scene and pronounced her dead.

Lewis was arrested and charged with murder.

A preliminary autopsy report came back that Crabtree had “stabbing, strangulation and asphyxiation.”

At a pretrial hearing in the Ironton Municipal Court, Judge Kevin Waldo had to repeatedly admonish Lewis’s attorney to not let his client speak unless asked a direct question. Lewis tried to explain something to the judge several times but was stopped by his lawyer and the judge since the hearing was only to see if there was enough evidence to send the case to the common pleas court. If Lewis had admitted to the crime, he could have been convicted before an attorney could present evidence in the case to help in Lewis’ defense.

Brigham said Lewis didn’t interrupt during the trial.