The murder of Melissa Britt Lewis in March 2008 was devastating to many people. A bright, talented, 39-year-old attorney, she was the social coordinator for her friends and a generous aunt who had planned to take her niece to a Jonas Brothers concert just before she died.
To Debra Villegas' family, the loss of Melissa was especially painful. Melissa and Debra were best friends who, in the year before Melissa died, were helping each other through difficult divorces. Newly single,
and unwilling to sit home alone in a big house in Plantation, Melissa
spent a lot of time at Debra's house, helping to care for Debra's four
"I always joke, yep, Melissa's our dad," Debra's daughter, Aimee Villegas, told police in a sworn interview shortly after Melissa's death. "She does our groceries, she takes care of us, she spoils us at Christmastime, she spoils my son."
"We go to the Keys together. She makes sure we have everything that we need," Aimee continued.
Melissa's support was essential to Debra, her daughter said, because Debra was battling cancer and trying to escape an allegedly abusive marriage to Tony Villegas. "She's my mom's backbone," Aimee said of Melissa. "My mom, without Melissa, she wouldn't have ever left [Tony]."
"She gets my mom food in the morning. My mom, with all her medical problems, if she's in bed and depressed, [Melissa's] like, 'Get out of bed, let's go, get dressed!' or putting her clothes on for her," Aimee said. "I don't even think my mom would be where she was today without Melissa."
Aimee told the police that Tony, who had moved out when he and Debra separated, might have known what a big role Melissa was now playing in his family's life.
"I think he realized over the last year that... she's doing fine without him because she has Melissa."