Los Angeles police detectives are still trying to figure out why 28-year-old actor Johnny Lewis allegedly murdered his landlady on a pristine street filled with million-dollar homes in the tony neighborhood of Los Feliz near Griffith Park. “The motive is really unknown,” said Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Frank Preciado.
Shortly after he allegedly killed 81-year-old Catherine Davis, Lewis, who appeared on two seasons of FX’s Sons of Anarchy TV series, either fell or jumped off a terracotta-roofed garage to his death. Police found his body sprawled on the driveway next to a large pool of blood. “It’s unknown if he heard the sirens and he wanted to get out of there or he was fleeing the scene prior to the police’s arrival,” said Preciado.
Police officers were called to the home Wednesday morning around 10:40 a.m., after reports of a woman screaming, glass breaking, and a fight. At the home, in the 3600 block of Lowry Road, detectives discovered Lewis lying dead on the asphalt driveway and Davis dead in her upstairs bedroom. The Los Angeles County Coroner is reporting that Davis died from blunt force trauma to the head and manual strangulation. “He probably strangled her first and then hit her over the head to make sure she was dead,” said Lt. Fred Corral, with the coroner’s investigation division.
Authorities also discovered the dismembered body of Davis’ cat, Jessie, according to a police source. Lewis’ girlfriend showed up at the scene Wednesday, but was escorted away by officers.
According to police, Lewis also jumped a backyard fence and attacked a painter in a nearby yard with an “object.” He later returned to the same backyard and got into another altercation with the painter as well as the owner of the home. It’s unclear which of the attacks occurred first, but a police source says they happened within minutes of each other.
Commander Andrew Smith said detectives are looking to see if drugs played a role in the incident. “Whenever we see behavior like this we can’t rule it out,” he said.
Police sources told the Los Angeles Times they were looking into whether Lewis was high on C2i (or 2C-I), also known as “smiles.” The drug is known to cause hallucinations, and was linked to the deaths of two teens in North Dakota, according to the paper. He reportedly spent time in a rehab facility.
Police learned that Lewis had rented a room from Davis, a retired real estate broker, soon after he was released from county jail on Sept. 21. On Aug. 8, Lewis pleaded no contest to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 365 days in county jail. He also pleaded no contest to residential burglary. In that case, he received 291 days in jail. It’s uncertain, however, how much time, if any, he spent behind bars.
When news broke about Lewis’s death, Sons of Anarchy executive producer Kurt Sutter tweeted that he wasn’t very surprised. ”It was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy, who unfortunately had lost his way.”
He continued: “I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events last night, but I was not. I am deeply sorry that an innocent life had to be thrown into his destructive path. Yes, it’s a day of mourning, but it’s also a day of awareness and gratitude. Sadly, some of us carry the message by dying.”
Lewis played Kip “Half-Sack” Epps in the first two seasons of Sons of Anarchy. His character was killed off in the finale of Season 2. “That was his character arc,” said FX spokesperson John Solberg. That is how it ended.”
Besides his role on Sons of Anarchy, Lewis also appeared on the TV shows Boston Public, The O.C., Criminal Minds, and The Guardian. He also had film roles in The Runaways, Raise Your Voice, and most recently, 186 Dollars to Freedom.
“I am deeply sorry that an innocent life had to be thrown into his destructive path.”
Davis, the owner of Housing Solutions, a real estate company, had lived in the Spanish-style home with a terracotta roof for decades, and regularly rented out her home to short-term tenants through the website, writersvilla.com. The website, describes the place as “a rambling Spanish home in Los Angeles, set up for creative people … The ambience is much like that of a fine Bed and Breakfast Inn, combining the best of hotel and home. Built in the style of a hacienda, the villa offers large rooms and private patios.”
According to the website, guesthouse rentals went for $2,850 per month, $850 per week or $125 per night, with a minimum of five nights.
Davis also kept a Facebook page for Writers Villa where she touted the successes of her tenants and posted information about their upcoming events. She even posted photos of her cat, Jessie, and holiday pictures of her guests.
Mary Ann Kuk a friend and co-worker of Davis’s at Housing Solutions, told Celebuzz that Davis had rented a room to Lewis in the past. “This is devastating for all of us,” Kuk told Celebuzz. “She was the most gorgeous, beautiful and kind person I ever met, and she was a joy to work with and to know. To know her was to love her.”
According to LinkedIn, Davis attended the University of California, Los Angeles from 1954 to 1958.
Corral, of the Los Angeles County Coroner, said the cause of Lewis’ death is deferred pending toxicology results.