William Lewis (born Lewis Williams) was a serial rapist, serial killer, serial kidnapper, and sadist (later a spree rapist and spree killer).
Lewis was apparently born in Harlan County, Kentucky, on August 23, 1978, as Lewis Williams. Lewis revealed that his father used to drive him to his babysitter's house and put him in front of the TV to watch cartoons, while he went into the back and had sex with the babysitter. Lewis recounted that one day, his father was passed out drunk while they were at the babysitter's house. Because of this, his babysitter began to perform fellatio on Lewis instead. His father regained consciousness in the middle of the act, and assaulted and brutally raped her in front of his son. Afterwards, he took Lewis to Dairy Queen for ice cream. Lewis later claimed it was one of the best days of his life. In 1998, he abducted and raped the mother of his girlfriend when she tried to break them up. Though Lewis was caught, the DA was unwilling to put the victim on the stand to testify, as she was a junkie, and the charges were dropped.
In 2003, Lewis kidnapped two roommates in Alabama, and raped and tortured them for three straight days in a fishing cabin. They managed to escape and reported him to police, but Lewis avoided prosecution again because both victims were too traumatized to testify in open court, so his lawyer got him off. His name was misspelled on the paperwork as "Louis Williams", so the record failed to follow him. This gave Lewis the idea of using aliases that sounded similar, to confuse police records that would mistake it for simple spelling errors. In 2010, Lewis appeared in Maryland, where his name was further misspelled as "William Lucas", and he went to trial for the rape and second-degree murder of his then-girlfriend, who was also his defense attorney from Alabama. His new lawyer, however, found another boyfriend of the victim and created reasonable doubt, resulting in Lewis' acquittal. At some point, Lewis was sentenced to rehabilitation in an inpatient addiction facility in Long Island, ostensibly due to a drug addiction he suffered from while taking medication for back pain.
In February 2013, Lewis was transferred out of the facility and into a halfway house in Brooklyn. One day, Lewis starts taunting Jose, which causes Jose to almost scald his hands in the running water. When asked by Jose if he doesn't mind the heat, Lewis, in response, turns up the heat on the burners, places his fingertips on the cooking surface, and burns his fingers while he laughs. Lewis then tries to leave but Jose tells him that he has cleanup to do. In response, Lewis forces Jose's hand on the cooking surface, burning his hand. He then leaves for Central Park, where he flashes two female international tourists and is caught in the act by a 60-year-old woman named Alice Parker. Moments after, he is arrested by Detective Rollins, who was playing fetch with her dog nearby. Police efforts to identify him are complicated by his burnt fingertips and an absence of physical identification or anyone who could verify his identity. Despite this, Rollins calls in the rest of the SVU, operating on a hunch that Lewis is more than he says he is.
During interrogation, Lewis gives various lies to SVU detectives about his personal life and background. He is later arraigned on public lewdness and given a plea bargain by ADA Barba, where he will only have two days of community service if he pleads guilty. Despite the offer, Lewis seduces his attorney, Vanessa Mayer, into declining Barba's offer and explains that he doesn't want to plead guilty to something he didn't do. He is then released from police custody, given that the charge of indecent exposure was only a Class B misdemeanor. Soon after, however, he tracked Alice down, and raped and tortured her at gunpoint for eighteen hours straight. The attack was briefly interrupted by an unknowing Captain Cragen, who informed Alice that she had to testify at Lewis' trial, but she managed to wave him away without incident. After the attack was discovered and Alice is taken to a hospital, Lewis was immediately suspected of it. He was tracked down to a bodega store and arrested by Rollins and Detective Fin.
During interrogation, Lewis claims that he had left the halfway house out of dissatisfaction for it. However, he tauntingly tells Detective Benson how he tortured Alice, all the while refusing to eye Detective Amaro; Benson pretends to be highly interested in Lewis in order to get more information out of him. Lewis tries to egg Benson on by telling her the graphic details of his abuse of Alice. He then tells Benson that it was all hypothetical right after Mayer arrives. The police attempt to do a lineup identification with Alice, but Lewis pretends to attempt suicide so he could avoid that. During the trial, where Lewis appears via teleconference, the judge approves Mayer's request for a psychiatric evaluation under the basis that he is not competent to stand trial and that he is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. Later, after SVU uncovers his criminal record, Barba argues that Lewis is competent to stand trial because of his previous charges and intimate knowledge of the judicial system, while Mayer argues that Lewis was unlawfully harassed by the state. However, Lewis decides to proceed with the trial and is ruled competent by a judge.
Later, Benson and Cragen find that Alice died of a heart attack due to the trauma of the rape and torture on her. With the loss of the prosecution's lead witness, Barba tries to offer a plea bargain with Lewis, where he pleads guilty to third-degree sexual assault and grand larceny and will be sentenced to four to seven years in prison. However, he and Mayer turn down the offer again and say that the SVU has a vendetta against Lewis. During the trial, Mayer works to discredit the evidence and SVU's testimonies. It was then found, by an independent investigator hired by Mayer, that the DNA evidence was mishandled when it was tested in improperly cleaned equipment. Lewis and Mayer seize upon that revelation as a good reason to deem it inadmissible in court. Mayer also points out that Alice was so traumatized that she might not accurately remember the face of her attacker, creating plausible deniability and leading to a mistrial being declared. In addition, Lewis was released on bail posted by Mayer. Immediately after, he breaks into Benson's apartment, holds her at gunpoint when she arrives home, and binds and gags her.
For the next several hours, Lewis tortures and humiliates Benson by forcing her to ingest sleeping pills, whiskey, and vodka while burning her with cigarettes and heated keys. After some time, Benson loses consciousness. Upon regaining consciousness, she tries to negotiate with him, telling him to leave the state now and she will not tell anyone about what happened in exchange. However, Lewis doesn't believe her and forces her to listen to a phone message left behind by her boyfriend Brian Cassidy, who says that he is stuck at his workplace in a Bronx courthouse and will not be coming home in a while. She attempts to resume negotiation, but Lewis claims that they are past that stage now. Benson then warns Lewis that she is an officer with the NYPD and that the SVU, along with the entire department, will be coming after him when they realize she is missing. She adds that he has put people through hell, but that "it will rain back down on you". However, he isn't daunted by the warning, says "Let it rain", and knocks her out by pistol-whipping her.
Kidnapping Benson, Lewis returns to his halfway house, intimidates Silva into handing over his car keys, and takes his car. Two days later, he picks up Mayer and has dinner with her and her parents at the family house in Bellport, with Benson still bound and gagged in the trunk. Afterwards, Lewis drops off Mayer at the train station and returns to her parents' home, where he attacks her father Herb, binding and gagging him with duct tape, and leaves him to die of a heart attack. He then proceeds to rape and torture her mother Liz, with Benson being forced to watch. Lewis would escalate Liz's torture if Benson shut her eyes. Finally, after leaving Liz bound in her closet, Lewis steals her credit card and car and drives around the coast with Benson, looking for a suitable house to slowly rape and torture her. While en route, Lewis stops by a hardware store and, using the Mayers' stolen credit card, purchases rope, duct-tape, wire, and a handheld blowtorch, intending to use them when he tortured Benson. During the stop, he gives Benson more vodka and then some water, and warns her, "One move, lights out."
Lewis proceeds to go back on the road, and as he drives, he taunts Benson by singing along to music. Shortly after, a police officer pulls him over for running a blinking red light. Lewis realizes the officer is a rookie and warns Benson that he will kill him if she makes a move. When the officer approaches him, Lewis attempts to negotiate his way out of the situation. However, the officer notices the alcohol and then Benson lying between the seats, prompting Lewis to kill him. Afterwards, he takes his gun, badge, and patrol car, using the latter to carjack a young woman and her infant child, leaving them both in the trunk of the patrol car. Finding a seemingly vacant house in Yaphank, Lewis settles in there, throws Benson on the bed, and chains her to it with her own handcuffs after helping her go to the bathroom. Ditching the stolen minivan in front of another house to throw off any suspicion, Lewis returns and taunts Benson, asking if there was anyone she wanted to see one last time. At first, she remains steely, but her resolve soon breaks and she begs that she will do anything to live.
Lewis prepares to cut Benson's clothes off when a maid working at the house, Viva Nuñez, arrives with her young daughter Luisa. While initially eager to chase Viva away, Lewis changes his mind when he spots Luisa and instead chooses to rape, torture, and murder both as well. While he was preparing to do so, Benson taunts Lewis with how pathetic he was to prey on old women and children, and accuses him of not being "man enough to get it up" for a real woman. She then adds that she believes he was afraid of her. Intent on proving her wrong, Lewis unbuckles his pants, but at that moment, Benson breaks a bar off the iron post of the bed and strikes Lewis' face with it. Immediately, Lewis attempts to grab his gun from the adjacent night table, but Benson breaks his arm with the post and kicks him in the groin. Benson then grabs the gun and holds it to Lewis, warning him, "One move, lights out." However, he remains calm, saying that if she wants to be in control, he would let her, as he could play with that. She then pistol-whips him and knocks him out.
Benson proceeds to free herself and cuff Lewis to the bed, then release Viva and Luisa. Returning to Lewis, who was still seemingly knocked out, Benson voices her disgust and hatred towards him, and her desire to torture and kill him, before admitting that he might enjoy that too. Revealing himself to still be conscious, Lewis attempts to goad Benson into killing him, then explains his childhood to her. This disgusts Benson, who believed he was trying to obtain some degree of sympathy from her. However, Lewis confesses that he enjoyed the incident where his father violently raped his babysitter, as it was when he learned the reason for why he was born. Even more horrified by this, Benson points the gun at his face, preparing to shoot him, but ultimately relents from killing him. However, Lewis comments, "I knew it. You don't have the balls." Benson snaps, takes the bed post again, and bludgeons Lewis repeatedly, seemingly to death. She then calls SVU and the police, who arrive and take Lewis away. Fin then reveals to a shocked Benson that Lewis had survived.
Lewis was to stand trial for three separate crimes: Benson's assault, kidnapping, and rape; the rape of Liz Mayer and the concurrent murder of her husband Herb; and the murder of the police officer during the traffic stop. First, he stood trial for the attack on Benson, with his defense being that it was all consensual and that the New York Police Department has a vendetta against him. Following a pre-trial motions hearing, Lewis announced, through his attorney, Martha Marron, that he wanted to plead guilty to multiple counts of first-degree rape and sodomy on Benson, even though that never happened. His intent was to stand up in open court and provide a false narrative of what he did to Benson. Even though he will receive a sentence of 25 years to life and die in prison, and she will not have to testify in a trial, Benson refuses to let Barba take the deal.
When Barba turns down the offer, Lewis asks the judge to dismiss Marron as his attorney and allow him to represent himself in the trial. The judge allows Lewis to be his own attorney, but has him keep Marron as co-counsel. During the course of the trial, Lewis feigned injury from permanent scars on the left side of his face, claimed partial blindness in his eye and deafness in his left ear, and limped in the courtroom. He continually questions the integrity of SVU while cross-examining Fin and Rollins' statements. When he cross-examines Amaro, Lewis references Benson's allegedly sexually provocative nature during one of his interrogations, and Amaro explains that it was a tactic to emotionally connect with a suspect. Later on, Benson testifies under oath that when she had bludgeoned Lewis with a steel rod, it had been necessary to incapacitate him, as he had managed to get free from his handcuffs. This statement surprises Lewis, who decides not to cross-examine her.
The following night, Benson and Barba learn that Lewis has called Viva Nuñez as another witness. While cross-examining Viva, Lewis gets her to admit that Benson forced her and Luisa to leave after pointing out that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would take away Luisa if she didn't cooperate. Lewis then creates reasonable doubt in regards to his near-fatal bludgeoning at the hands of Benson, by having an expert note that any one of the blows he received was enough to fully incapacitate him and that the rest were unnecessary. Immediately afterwards, he requests a recess, claiming fatigue due to a collapsed lung and uses a letter written by his prison doctor, Janice Cole, as support. The judge grants his request. The next day, he cross-examines Benson herself and addresses her family history and marital status as possible reasons why she would be sexually interested in him, as his defense claims. Lewis proceeds to make many attempts at poking holes into her story and discrediting Benson's testimony.
Lewis returns to Benson's false testimony that Lewis had broken free from his handcuffs and attempts to intimidate Benson into telling the real story, but she remains steely. The next day, Lewis, who was planning on taking the stand, explains that he had changed his mind, claiming that the prosecution had failed to make its case, and adds that he is ready for closing statements. During closing statements, Lewis claims that Benson was sexually obsessed with him, that everything that had happened to her was consensual, and that his near-fatal bludgeoning was an example of excessive force. Eventually, the jury acquit him on the general assault and rape charges, but convicted him of the charges of kidnapping and assault of a police officer. As a result, he was sentenced to the maximum penalty: 25 years to life in prison. Before he left, Lewis gave Benson one final glance. Four months later, he experienced a seizure in prison and was wheeled towards the hospital on a stretcher, with Janice Cole by his side.
It was later revealed that the cause of Lewis' seizure was spiked pastries given to him by the jury forewoman in his original trial, an actress named Bronwyn Freed. She had frequented Lewis' prison, believing him to have been wrongly convicted. Before one of the visits, she prepared the pastries, which contained her own anti-anxiety prescription drugs, and gave them to Lewis. Following his hospitalization, doctors pronounced him dead when attempts to resuscitate him failed. Soon after, he spontaneously "auto-resuscitated" and, amidst the Monday morning mayhem, attacked the police officer guarding him and a nurse attending to him, all while unnoticed. He murdered the officer by snapping his neck and afterwards stole his gun, and raped and mutilated the nurse, but she survived. Lewis then changed into the nurse's clothing, used it to blend in, and escaped the hospital in the nurse's car. Once he escaped, he called Benson, now a Sergeant, using the nurse's cellphone and told her "I missed you, sunshine" before hanging up.
Later on, Lewis invaded the Cole home, shot and killed Cole, raped the eldest daughter Lauren and left her bound and gagged her in a closet, and abducted the youngest daughter Amelia. Upon being found, Lauren reveals to the detectives that Lewis had entrusted her with a message meant solely for Benson, and that she needed to speak to Benson alone. When that was granted, she delivers the message: "Tell the truth, or the girl dies". When Lieutenant Declan Murphy asks her what that meant, Benson explains that she had perjured herself during his trial. Meanwhile, Lewis kills a man and steals his car, then robs a gas station and beats the clerk unconscious. Soon after, at police headquarters, Lewis calls them on the landline, and insists that he speak to Benson. On the phone, he again demanded that she make the confession soon or else he would kill Amelia, along with Martha Marron. Benson agrees to make the confession on live TV under the condition that Amelia and Marron remain alive. He agrees, but then violently shoves a man he passes off as Marron down a flight of stairs and beats him into submission, then manages to escape police again.
Lewis' latest escape prompts Benson to make a televised confession about her perjury. She declares that she had assaulted Lewis out of rage, rather than necessity, and claimed that her admission had been made without coercion and by her own volition. Afterwards, Benson contacts Lewis, says that she could come rescue Amelia. She evades her security personnel, takes a civilian's car, and heads to a junkyard where Lewis was at. There, he holds her at gunpoint, disarms her, removes her cellphone, and unstraps her police vest. He then kidnaps her and transports her to Amelia's location, a deserted and decrepit factory. As they traveled to the uppermost floor where Amelia was, Lewis taunts her. He then forces her to choose between letting herself be raped or having Amelia, who was bound by her wrists, be raped. Benson volunteers herself, and Lewis began to fondle and caress her, but Benson refused to submit to his sexual desires. As a result, he forces her to partake in a game of Russian Roulette.
Lewis loads a six-chambered revolver, presses the muzzle to his head, and pulls the trigger, only to reveal a blank. He slides the gun to Benson, forcing her to fire the gun at her head, with the threat that he would shoot her if she didn't do it. Reluctantly, she pulls the trigger, revealing another blank. Lewis, becoming excited, retrieves the gun and pulls the trigger while aiming it at his own head, firing yet another blank. Right before Benson takes her turn, however, Lewis hears helicopters and realizes that the police had found their location. Undeterred, he taunts the detectives through a walkie-talkie he had stolen, informing the SVU of their game. Benson takes the revolver once more and revealed another blank. Lewis then takes the revolver and revealed another blank. With the only chamber remaining being the loaded one, Lewis tells Benson, "Game over." Suddenly, after intimidating and psychologically tormenting her with the prospect of her death, he raises the gun to his head using his left hand and fired, killing himself in an attempt to frame Benson for his death.
Benson is brought before a grand jury. ADA Derek Strauss attempts to indict her with Lewis' murder, framing it as an NYPD cover-up as Lewis had intended. However, Murphy reveals that he ordered Benson to falsely admit to perjury in order to lure Lewis out, then he delivers a stirring speech about Lewis' past and psychopathy. This affects the grand jury, and they refuse to indict Benson, causing Lewis' actions to be in vain. Afterwards, Benson visits his body in the morgue and gets closure.
- In an interview prior to season fifteen's premiere, Warren Leight said that he had wanted to make the most evil criminal on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and that he intended to make William Lewis as evil as possible during the fifteenth season. He stated after the William Lewis saga ended that the most evil criminal in the series would obviously be one that would torture Benson, who was a large majority of viewers favorite character.
- During the fifteenth season, particularly before and during the premiere of Surrender Benson and Beast's Obsession, the hashtag #SaveBenson circulated on both Twitter and Instagram, with Mariska Hargitay, Warren Leight, Kelli Giddish and Pablo Schreiber promoting the hashtag and fifteenth season.
- Unknown dates:
- 1998, Lexington, Kentucky: May Stu (kidnapped, drugged, forced to drink alcohol, and raped; was rescued)
- 2003, Montgomery, Alabama: Two unnamed female roommates (kidnapped, raped, and tortured for three days; both escaped)
- 2010, Cecil County, Maryland: Unnamed Alabama lawyer (his girlfriend; raped for two days and left her to die of exposure)
- 2013, New York:
- May 12, New York City:
- Jose Silva (assaulted; burned his hand on a kitchen stove)
- Astrid and Tilde (both flashed)
- May 13, New York City: Alice Parker (raped, tortured, burned, and branded at gunpoint; died of a heart attack three days later due to the trauma)
- May 20, New York City: Detective Olivia Benson (kidnapped, tortured, branded, burned, forced to drink alcohol, and assaulted; she escaped four days later)
- May 22-23, Bellport: The Mayers:
- Herb Mayer (bound and gagged; died of a heart attack due to the trauma)
- Liz Mayer (raped and tortured; survived)
- May 24:
- Suffolk County:
- Officer Jimmy Hamilton (beaten, shot once in the head at point-blank range, and stole his gun)
- Unnamed woman (assaulted; pistol-whipped, locked in the truck of Hamilton's car, and stole her car)
- The woman's unnamed baby (held hostage; locked in the truck of Hamilton's car with the mother)
- Yaphank: Viva Nuñez and her daughter Luisa (intended to rape, torture, and murder; both were rescued)
- Suffolk County:
- May 12, New York City:
- 2014, New York City, New York:
- March 31:
- Officer Foster (snapped his neck and stole his gun)
- Unnamed nurse (raped and mutilated; survived)
- The Cole family:
- April 1:
- Danny Weston (shot once in the head and carjacked)
- Unnamed gas station clerk (assaulted; bound, gagged, and pistol-whipped)
- Martha Marron (intended to rape)
- Unnamed man (assaulted; shoved down a flight of stairs and non-fatally beaten)
- Unnamed parking lot attendant (bound, gagged, and fatally shot)
- April 2: Sergeant Olivia Benson (held hostage, groped, assaulted, tortured, and forced to partake in Russian Roulette; was rescued)
- March 31: