Investigation Discovery’s ‘American Monster: The Hidden Room’ chronicles how 55-year-old Carla Lewis was murdered inside her Nile Township, Michigan, home in August 2017. When the officers began their probe, they found a heady cocktail of weed, affairs, and alleged intruders behind the homicide. It took a witness and a detailed investigation to crack the case and catch the actual perpetrator. If you’re interested in learning more about the case, including the killer’s name and identity, we’ve your back. Let’s begin then, shall we?
How Did Carla Lewis Die?
Carla J. Lewis was born to Wayne C. and Darlene J. (Benford) Arent in Benton Harbor in Berrien County, Michigan, on June 26, 1962. She graduated from St. Joseph High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Indiana Tech. Carla worked for the Whirlpool Corporation for over twenty years. She most recently worked for Bayer Pharmaceuticals. She was 21 when she got married and had children with her former husband, Steve Damico. However, things didn’t work out between the two, and the pair got divorced in 2007 after staying together for two decades.
After her divorce, Carla began online dating, and her daughter, Dani Damico, stated, “She was reliving some of her younger years that she missed since she was 21 when she got married.” A few months later, she met John Benton Lewis, and they got married on June 30, 2012, at a ceremony in Mishawaka. Carla loved to shop, Snapchat daily, scrapbooking, and put the well-being of others before herself. Hence, it was shocking when police responded to a distress call from her husband, John, in August 2017.
According to police reports, Berrien County sheriff’s investigators reached 1429 Lawndale Avenue in Nile Township at about 6:00 pm on August 13 after John called 911. The officers found 55-year-old Carla’s body lying face down in a room hidden behind a makeshift bookshelf in the basement. An autopsy revealed she had been shot five times, including a fatal shot to the head. Her vehicle — a 2008 Mazda CX-9 with registration CMY 3721 — was also reported missing.
Who Killed Carla Lewis?
John went to the police station to give his version of the events leading to the murder. He told the officers Carla had gone to visit her mother for the weekend and had returned that Sunday afternoon. They discussed their weekend activities before going into the basement, where they grew marijuana plants. According to John, they were shifting and tending to the plants when he heard Carla scream and looked up to see allegedly at least two black guys shooting at them.
However, the investigators were skeptical since they thought the room was too small for John to escape unharmed if a shootout happened. He claimed the suspects were already hiding in the basement and jumped on the married couple. The police learned John grew medical cannabis for caregivers and claimed the shooting happened because of his store though he never gave a clear-cut answer about whom he suspected of killing his wife. The detectives thought John’s story “just didn’t make much sense.”
John was adamant he never owned a gun or purchased any firearm and claimed he had a happy and “perfect” marriage. While the interrogation was going on, the detectives received a phone call from Justin Hicks, who was working construction in John’s business. He told the officers John texted him around 1:53 pm, asking him to come to his place. Justin claimed John gave him the store keys and asked him to retrieve ammunition from his store, which Justin keeps in his car.
After he heard about the shooting, Justin handed over to the police eight boxes of Russian-made 9-mm ammunition and a magazine for a 9-mm pistol. This particular caliber ammunition with steel casings matched the casings retrieved from the crime scene, thus connecting John to the murder. John kept blabbering about the intruder theory and denying he owned any fire weapon or ammunition until he was confronted with Justin’s statement. Police interview recordings showed he stopped cooperating at that point and asked for a lawyer.
Carla’s autopsy report came the following day, and it stated John’s Russian ammunition matched the shell casings found at the crime scene and the ones used to shoot Carla. Based on all the evidence, the police arrested John and charged him with one count of first-degree murder in Carla’s death. New reports stated the officers also found Carla’s allegedly stolen car abandoned in a cornfield off Yankee Street in Cass County on August 18. Even though he was arrested, the investigators spoke with witnesses and family members to build a strong case.
According to family sources, John’s Sevenleaves Compassion Club at 1046 Bell Road in Niles was not making money. While Carla earned the money to pay the bills, she was seemingly done with John’s failing business and was going to ask him to shut it down. The police learned she had a $246,000 life insurance policy and $70,000 in retirement money with John as the beneficiary. The money provided the officers with John’s motive, and they also went through his phone and laptop to find he had been texting several women online.
One of the women came forward and told the officers John allegedly paid her in cash and weed for her to have sex with him. She claimed the relationship had been going on for six years, and they had sex on the day of the murder. What was alarming was her claim that John had allegedly asked her whether she would leave her erstwhile boyfriend and shift with him if he became a widower. One of the detectives stated, “John had told her he was going to murder his wife by using some prescription drug.”
Where is John Lewis Now?
The police also went through John’s internet history to find he had been searching sites to purchase pistols and silencers ten days before the murder. All this evidence contradicted his claims of never owning or showing interest in buying firearms. His trial began on February 5, 2019. John pleaded not guilty and continued claiming two men had broken into his home, shot his wife, and stolen her car to escape. However, the prosecutor built a strong case that showed John used Carla for her money while having many affairs.
John’s defense claimed Carla was shot because of the store. But the prosecution had enough evidence to show John killed his wife in cold blood, and the jury found him guilty of murder and possession with intent to manufacture marijuana. While he had a license to grow up to 12 plants, Carla’s presence in the room showed others had access, which was a violation. He was sentenced to life without parole in March 2019. According to court records, the 54-year-old is incarcerated at the Carson City Correctional Facility.