DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Columbia

For Immediate Release

Friday, February 23, 2018
Jessie K. Liu
, United States Attorney
Contact: Public Affairs

District Man Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison for Setting House Fire That Killed 4-Year-Old Girl

Child and Her Relatives were Tenants in Defendant's Home

   WASHINGTON – Jerome C. Lewis, 51, of Washington, DC, was sentenced today to 32 years in prison on charges of first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, second-degree murder, and first-degree cruelty to children in a house fire that led to the death of a four-year-old child, Samauri Michelle Jenkins.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu , Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Thomas L. Chittum III, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Gregory M. Dean, Chief of the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (DCFEMS).

Lewis was found guilty of the charges on Oct. 25, 2017, following a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Milton C. Lee.

At today's sentencing, the government requested restitution for the estate of Samauri Jenkins or the imposition of a fine based on the defendant receiving a payout from an insurance company for the damage to his home and personal property.   Judge Lee set a follow-up hearing for June 15, 2018 to consider the government’s request for orders of restitution and/or fines. In advance of that hearing, Judge Lee granted the government’s request to freeze Lewis’s assets.

According to the government’s evidence, Lewis owned a home in the 2600 block of 33rd Street SE.  In late 2011, Lewis began renting the first and second floors to relatives while he lived in the basement.  In early 2013, his relationship with his tenant-relatives had become strained and he was experiencing a financial crisis.  On Feb.17, 2013, in the early hours of the morning, he set fire to his mattress located in his basement living area, causing a fire that spread throughout the basement and to the first floor of the home.

Everyone was able to escape the home, with the exception of four-year-old Samauri Jenkins. She was rescued from a second floor bedroom by the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. She was taken to a hospital with burns and smoke inhalation, but died from her injuries two days later.

Lewis was arrested on the morning of the fire and has been in custody ever since.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Liu, Chief Newsham, Special Agent in Charge Chittum, and Chief Dean commended the work of the D.C. Arson Task Force, which is comprised of members from MPD, the Washington Field Division of the ATF, and DCFEMS. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Supervisory Paralegal Specialist Sharon Newman; Paralegal Specialist Stephanie Gilbert; Legal Secretary Dawn White; Intelligence Analyst Zachary McMenamin; Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling; Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker; Supervisory Victim/Witness Services Coordinator David Foster; Victim/Witness Services Coordinator Katina Adams-Washington; Supervisory Administrative Services Specialist Tina Wall, and Administrative Services Specialist Sallie Rynas.

Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberley C. Nielsen and Michelle D. Jackson, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

18-46

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Field Division: Washington Field Division