Asheville resident Lewis Kyle Wilson has been charged with the brutal assault and kidnapping of a prostitute. He has also been dubbed a “person of interest” in an unsolved 2006 murder and several similar assaults in the River District area. Search warrants reveal details about this case, while people who have known him shine light on the havoc the situation has wreaked throughout the community.
Warning: The material that follows, drawn from police reports, includes extremely graphic information regarding rape and violence.
Wilson,a 31-year-old carpenter, was arrested Nov. 26, 2008, on charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill and first-degree kidnapping after a woman claimed that he forced her to perform oral sex and stabbed her in the head on Nov. 19. By her account, she then bit his penis and managed to escape, calling the police from a nearby house. The Asheville Police Department searched Wilson’s residence and the surrounding area the same day, seizing items that included bags of hair, handcuffs, leg irons, guns, saws and a small box of teeth.
On Dec. 8, the APD executed a second search warrant on the area, identifying Wilson as a “person of interest” in the unsolved murder of prostitute Kelly Lane Smith and in the cases of two prostitutes who reported being attacked and raped in the same area in the past. Smith was last seen on July 29, 2006. Parts of her dismembered remains were found in the area several days later in two separate locations — both less than a mile from Wilson’s residence.
That second warrant also links Wilson to two prostitutes who reported being attacked and raped in the same area in the past, in May and August 2008. Both women described a vehicle like Wilson’s — a gold/tan-colored extended cab pickup with a camper top — and the one assaulted in the May incident later identified him out of a photo lineup.
Police are continuing to investigate the three cases, and Wilson has not yet been charged in any of them. He is currently in jail on a $115,000 bond.
Since the allegations arose in November, rumors have swirled around the case and acts Wilson is and isn’t accused of. Some of those who knew Wilson describe him as active in the community and say the case’s impact has been wrenching.
“This was someone who came to our parties, was a babysitter to our children and repaired our houses — it’s wreaked complete havoc on all of us,” Morgana Davis, who has known Wilson since 1999, told Xpress. “To hear those allegations … there’s a lot of trust issues now, a lot of people questioning themselves.”
Below is a timeline with details compiled from information revealed in the search warrants or from the APD. Again, this material is extremely graphic.
July 29, 2006: Kelly Lane Smith, a local prostitute, is last seen by her friends.
July 31, 2006: The Asheville Police Department receives a call from employees at Highland Clays about skeletal remains found behind the business in the French Broad River. Investigation leads to the recovery of a human skull, two tibias, two kneecaps, a partial left foot and a lower jawbone. According to the warrant, “the remains were clearly dismembered and cut into smaller parts, and most of the teeth were missing from the jaw.”
Aug. 7, 2006: The APD receives a second call, this time about remains found in a culvert near the intersection of Roberts and West Haywood streets. A right and left hand, and part of a left arm are recovered. Fingerprinting and DNA analysis reveals both these remains and those found on July 31 to be those of Smith.
May 11, 2008: A prostitute is picked up by a white male in a tan-colored extended-cab pickup. By her account, the man takes her to 64 Craven St., where she is, according to the warrant, “assaulted and raped both vaginally and anally.” He threatens to cut her throat and throw her body in the river. She manages to escape.
August 6, 2008: Another prostitute is picked up by a “white male in a gold colored extended cab pickup with a camper top and taken to 68 1/2 Craven Street.” According to her statement, she is beaten severely about the face and head. The man knocks her unconscious after she refuses anal sex, before dropping her off alongside the roadway when she comes to.
Nov. 19, 2008: At 12:40 a.m., the APD responds to a call from 16 Brownwood Ave., less than a half mile from Wilson’s residence. A badly injured woman claims that she’s been assaulted and is taken to Mission Hospitals.
According to the statements of the woman and her boyfriend, they are walking from Aston Tower Apartments to the Bartlett Arms Apartments when they notice a “gold king cab truck with matching gold camper shell repeatedly drive by them.” The truck follows them into the Bartlett Arms parking lot and the driver, according to the boyfriend’s account, asks her for oral sex. She initially refuses, but after further conversation, tells her boyfriend that she would return in a few minutes. The boyfriend will later tell police that the driver is a white male, “possible Mexican,” with black hair and a goatee.
The driver then requests oral sex, according to the prostitute’s later emergency-room statement, which she agrees to. He then strikes her in the head and drives her to a location she later described as “being past the Burger Bar, past the storage buildings and in a gravel lot.” He forcibly removes her from the pickup truck by the hair, drags her to an abandoned camper and forces her to perform oral sex while he stabs her in the head. She tries to defend herself, injuring her hands, before biting him in the penis.
Escaping, she makes her way up Waynesville Avenue about a half-mile to Brownwood Avenue and finds a home with the porch light on. The house’s owner calls the police. The APD tries to locate the suspect’s vehicle while warning area hospitals to watch out for a white male with an injured penis.
After taking the victim’s statement, APD officers leave the hospital and begin to search the Craven Street area for the camper. They locate a gold king-cab truck matching her description and, on further investigation, find a “blood trail coming from the RV.” The officers check the RV and find the door open. The camper is empty, but “there [is] a large amount of blood inside” as well as “blood on the passenger door of the truck.”
Around 10:25 a.m., the APD executes a search warrant on Wilson’s residence. “Items seized during the search included two plastic bags of hair, a small box of teeth, knives, saws, guns, handcuffs, leg irons, pornography, computers and cell phones,” according to a police report. Detectives discover that “most of the residence is uninhabitable. There is no running water or plumbing, and the interior is gutted of most walls.” Wilson lives in the one room of the house with heat. The APD also finds that “the interior of the house had two open areas in the floor where it appears there has been digging in the dirt foundation. An open crawl space is under the house and piles of fill dirt are located on the property, along with a burn pit.”
The forensic evidence from Wilson’s home is still being examined. Capt. Tim Splain, head of the APD’s criminal investigations, told Xpress via e-mail that “We will have to wait on the outcome of forensic evidence examination to see if Wilson is actually linked to the death of Kelly Lane Smith. … [T]his forensic examination by the SBI will likely take months or up to a year.”
Nov. 22, 2008: An APD detective interviews a former girlfriend of Wilson’s, who says that during her relationship with him, “she was physically and sexually assaulted on a number of occasions” and filed a domestic-violence order. She also tells the detective that “this man is so dangerous” and that she’s still afraid of Wilson.
Nov. 26, 2008: Wilson is arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill and first degree kidnapping from the Nov. 19 attack. He’s also charged with possession with intent to sell marijuana and psilocybin, possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a house resorted to by persons using a controlled substance.
Dec. 2, 2008: The prostitute attacked in the May 11 incident identifies Wilson as her rapist in a photo lineup. The prostitute assaulted in the August incident now lives out of state, the warrant reports.
Dec. 8, 2008: The APD carries out a second search warrant on Wilson’s residence, along with surrounding properties. All of these properties are owned by Wilson’s mother, while he is responsible for the upkeep.
The warrant identifies Wilson as a “person of interest” in the Kelly Lane Smith murder and the previous prostitute assaults. It also requests the use of cadaver dogs “and if needed, forensic methods to better examine them for any possible human remains or blood that may be present.”
The police seize a plastic bag with a hair strand and pins, old U.S. coins, foreign coins, a recorder and tape, a digital recorder, film, a thumb drive and memory card, books, a photo album, a calendar, a wooden box, notebooks and “miscellaneous papers.”
Questions remain, both about the case and from those who knew Wilson.
For example, why didn’t the APD search Wilson’s residence or arrest him after the May and August assaults, when, according to the search warrants, the victims identified both his vehicle and home?
Splain informed Xpress that both victims gave the APD “fragmented information that did not lead investigators to
identify Lewis Kyle Wilson as the suspect” and that it was only after the November attack that “that investigators were able to backtrack and link the past reports” to Wilson.
Splain added that the prostitute attacked in May declined to press charges and that “she has also been charged a number of times since her report with prostitution and panhandling.” The victim in the August attack “is living out of state and refuses to pursue criminal charges in her case [and] also … she has outstanding warrants for prostitution and larceny.”
Prostitutes are particularly vulnerable population to violent crime and, due to the illegal nature of prostitution itself, they are often reluctant to talk to the police about dangers they may face.
“It is very difficult to convince a person engaged in the crime of prostitution to willingly aid law enforcement,” Splain states. “Most have already experienced the doubt and embarrassment that comes with testifying in court … especially in regard to sex offenses. Despite their victim status, their credibility is constantly questioned. Our APD Vice Investigators and Patrol Officers regularly arrest the prostitutes, but also serve as a contact and advisor for them … helping them receive assistance and services they may need. Most of the women will report crimes to let us know about what is happening in the street, but they are reluctant to follow through or pursue prosecution.”
Furthermore, “their logic is not what ‘we’ identify with. Most of the prostitute population are substance abusers, are currently or have been wanted by law enforcement, have a variety of mental issues, and an unstable home environment. We look at what they do through ‘our’ lens … they view the world and their actions through a different perspective.”
Knowing Wilson for almost a decade, Davis recalls that “he seemed generous, he seemed nice. Maybe there was something that seemed off, but that may just be looking back on it now. He seemed maybe too eager to help, like he was trying to be someone he wasn’t.”
Since news of his arrest came out, “It’s been complete mayhem among our group of friends,” Davis continues. “For me, it brought up a lot of anger because prostitutes as a population are such targets, because they’re viewed as lesser. It’s going to take a long time to process.”
“John,” who knew Wilson for several years, had a radically different impression.
“I absolutely believe he’s capable of committing these horrific crimes,” he told Xpress. “I am convinced he’s a sociopath. He’s violent, has no regard for his own safety or the safety of those around him, and barely understands right and wrong. He’s a liar and has run several fraud schemes. Yet no matter what he does, he always thinks of himself as a victim.”
“Lois,” a woman who briefly dated Wilson, recalls that “a large part of the reason I was attracted to him was that he seemed so respected in the community” and that “he seemed like a cool guy. He was really nice. He told me a lot of things I wanted to hear.”
After the allegations emerged, she noted that “he was very active in the community, he employed people, he was around in many, many different areas. It seems strange that no one noticed anything. After this all came out, the odd thing to me was that most people didn’t seem that surprised. It seemed like a lot of them knew he was off, but he was still this respected member of the community.”
She noted that, later on, she found out that “there were inconsistencies in his stories. He claimed this one girl was his close friend. Then it turns out she barely knew him.” She says she’s taken a lesson from the case.
“Look, I understand no one wants to be the bad guy, but I wish someone had told me that there was word he’d abused his girlfriend. Instead, all I heard was what a great guy he was,” she told Xpress. “It’s great that we’ve got this open-minded place where people are accepted for who they are, but we have to be careful not to let tolerance stand in the way of protecting the community. People need to tell others what they know.”
— David Forbes, staff writer