Who Was Barbara Lewis? How Did She Die?

Image Credit: Sally Hybl/The Gazette

Barbara Lewis was a well-respected teacher when a horrific incident changed her life forever. One afternoon in December 1993, a casual sip from her water bottle at the school she worked at soon became life-threatening for her. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda: After School Special’ focuses on who was responsible for this turn of events. While Barbara survived what turned out to be poisoning, she had to deal with lingering after-effects. So, if you’re curious to find out more about her, we’ve got you covered.

Who Was Barbara Lewis?

Barbara was born in New Jersey and raised in West Virginia. After graduating from Ohio University in 1962, she returned to West Virginia to embark on what would turn out to be a successful teaching career. Barbara married Ted Lewis on July 1, 1967, and the couple eventually had three children. She supported him through medical school, and the family of five ultimately moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to settle down.

Image Credit: Greg Lewis/The Gazette

While Barbara stayed home to raise their children when they were younger, she returned to teaching in 1987. Barbara taught math at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs and was considered a great teacher who was well-loved by her peers and students alike. One evening in December 1993, Barbara took a swig from her water bottle after coming back from an advisory meeting.

Almost immediately, the water caused severe burns in Barbara’s mouth and throat, in addition to burns on her hands. She drove herself to the hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery. The authorities later discovered that her water was poisoned with sodium hydroxide, a caustic chemical that’s also used to clean clogged drains. The person responsible was a then 17-year-old student, Scott Wade Matheson.

At the time, Scott had missed one of Barbara’s classes and got punished for it. Furthermore, as per the show, he had also been in trouble before. The authorities believed that Scott was angry with Barbara and added the chemical to her water to get back at her. He had picked it up from the chemistry lab and put it in Barbara’s water when nobody was looking. An unsuspecting Barbara then took a sip from it.

How Did Barbara Lewis Die?

Barbara underwent multiple surgeries that included replacing her esophagus. But that did not deter her; she returned to teaching soon after that and had reconstructive surgery later. While Barbara had some health issues due to the incident, she never let that affect her, preferring to concentrate on her work and contribute to the community. Even at Scott’s trial, she was only there when required, saying, “I’m not going to sit through this all again. I’d much rather be back at work. That’s where I belong.”

Image Credit: Sally Hybl/The Gazette

Apart from being involved in charitable organizations, Barbara devoted her time to church as part of the outreach community, kitchen crew, and even as its treasurer. The well-known educator won Teacher of the Year in 1993 as well. Barbara led a fulfilling life, with her children and grandchildren all living close to her. She retired in 2005 but continued to substitute teach and tutor until a few months before her death. Barbara was diagnosed with myeloproliferative neoplasms, a type of blood cancer, in 2018 and died on August 17, 2020, at the age of 79. Ted, her husband of over four decades, passed away in 2009.

Read More: Where is Scott Wade Matheson Now?