Why Was Melissa Britt Lewis Killed?

The murder of attorney Melissa Britt Lewis in Plantation is both monstrous and mysterious. The facts are scant, as they should be this early in an investigation, but early speculation from police is that this was a random attack with robbery as the motive. While that's certainly possible, I think the facts lean in another direction.

The info out so far (most of it from this well-done first-day story from the Sun-Sentinel):

The 39-year old Lewis, a partner at at the law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm in Fort Lauderdale, was grocery shopping at the Publix on Broward Boulevard (otherwise known as the Pulp's Publix) on Wednesday night.

With a red Prada handbag, she loaded her groceries into her black Cadillac SUV and drove the very short distance to her house on Plantation Road. There was a struggle in her garage and in her vehicle. Apparently she tried to fend off her attacker, or attackers, with Mace. Her two dogs were inside and never got a chance to help.

Her SUV was found in an office parking lot a mile away (at 7500 Fifth Street) and her body was found in the New River Canal along I-595 near Pine Island Road. She was neither shot nor stabbed, according to police, who aren't releasing any other details.

Looks like the leading theory is that this is a random robbery gone awry. While certainly possible, it seems unlikely to me. Most thieves that case houses don't wait for somebody to come home to make their move, but just the opposite. It seems too elaborate for a purse-snatching originating from Publix, too.

Looks to me like it was planned and the assailant knew she lived alone. Doesn't match a hit, though. And her law partners say she had no clients or cases that raise any suspicions, for what that's worth. She wasn't an abrasive hard-hitting lawyer; more a highly political attorney (she was a member of Leadership Broward and wanted to be a judge) who made friends rather than enemies. If it was a hit, you'd expect a shooting and you'd expect it to be quick. This looks like an abduction. That the killing was likely done in a "personal" physical manner (odds are strangulation or blunt force) supports that theory, as does the fact that she was an attractive, relatively young woman.

But that's just speculation and will most likely be wrong. It's dangerous to guess on open murder cases (as the horrible killing of Sean Taylor illustrated), but I can't help it. I just really, really hope it's solved soon.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman