Lewis#8217; killer brought to justice

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

HILLSBOROUGH – The man responsible for murdering an off-duty Roanoke-Chowan area law enforcement officer will spend a minimum of 13 years behind bars.

Here Monday inside the Orange County Superior Courtroom, Devin Scott Rigsbee, 20, of Mebane pled guilty to second degree murder for the May, 2004 death of Thomas Carrell Lewis.

Lewis, age 24 at the time of his death, was a Bertie County native. He was employed with the Roanoke-Chowan Narcotics Task Force. Prior to coming to the Task Force, Lewis worked with the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office and the Windsor Police Department.

His death not only caused emotional strain on his family, but shook the local law enforcement community at its roots. Lewis, an up-and-coming lawman prior to his murder, drew praise from many of his peers, including sheriffs Greg Atkins (Bertie County) and Juan Vaughan (Hertford County).

“He was just a great young man,” Sheriff Atkins said. “Thomas was a friend to many people, not just to those he worked with on a daily basis. Even though his death was well over one year ago, Thomas is still missed to this day.”

Atkins said that Monday’s court proceeding brought closure for the Lewis family.

“Nothing can make things right in this case and nothing that was done on Monday can bring Thomas back,” Atkins noted. “The only consolation in my mind was the fact that the Lewis family did not have to endure a long, drawn out trial.”

Sheriff Vaughan echoed the same thoughts.

“Sometimes it’s best not to put a family, one grieving the loss of a loved one, through the rigors of a long trial,” Vaughan said. “I feel certain that we all would have liked to see a longer prison term. But 13 years, the minimum amount of time the judge gave him, is still a long time to sit and think of why this man chose to take the life of another human being and think of how he put a family through all this pain and agony.”

Vaughan continued, “My heart still goes out to the Lewis family. My heart also goes out to the local law enforcement officers. We were his family as well and we still miss Thomas each and every day.”

Sheriff Atkins, who attended Monday’s legal proceedings, said Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan accepted Rigsbee’s plea to a second-degree murder charge and sentenced him to a minimum of 13 years, one month to a maximum of 16 and one-half years behind bars

Lewis died May 1, 2004 as the result of multiple stab wounds he received during an altercation in Orange County. The fight took place while Lewis was off duty and spending time with friends in Chapel Hill.

Rigsbee, who was originally charged with first-degree murder, was in a vehicle with his brother, Phillip Jason Rigsbee, also of Mebane, along with Eric Heith Isley and Joshua Dean Abrams, both of Efland.

The altercation apparently began after words were exchanged between occupants of the Rigsbee vehicle and the vehicle in which Lewis was riding as the two vehicles were about to enter Interstate 40.

At some point after exiting I-40 at the Old NC 86 interchange, the occupants of both cars left their vehicles where a fight ensued. Part of that altercation involved Lewis and Devin Scott Rigsbee. They reportedly tumbled down an embankment and continued to fight. Rigsbee began to stab Lewis with a pocketknife. An autopsy revealed Lewis was stabbed 35 times.

None of the other individuals involved in the fight were seriously injured.