NEWPORT NEWS — Shanita Mikell Eure came home from church about 9:30 a.m. on July 17, 2022, according to footage from a home security system on her family’s home.
Eure, 35, and her husband, Adrian Lewis, had a short conversation outside, then left their Newport News home together at 9:34 a.m. According to prior trial evidence, Eure was planning to return to Gethsemane Baptist Church for a later service.
Instead, only 6 minutes later — at 9:40 a.m. — Lewis’ black Chevrolet Silverado pickup drives into a Little Caesar’s parking lot on Jefferson Avenue. That was about a mile and a half from the couple’s home, in the opposite direction from the church.
The video shows Lewis driving toward the back of the pizzeria, which was closed that Sunday. He jumps out of the driver’s side, opens the passenger door and wipes the inside of the passenger door with a cloth. A person appears motionless on the passenger seat behind him.
Detectives believe Eure was shot to death in the truck, with that six-minute window appearing to be the most likely time, according to the evidence.
Eure has not been found. But Lewis, now 50, is charged with first-degree murder, with his trial continuing this week in Newport News Circuit Court. He maintains his innocence, and his lawyers say he has no idea what happened to his wife.
Trial witnesses have testified that Lewis was obsessed after his wife asked for a divorce in prior weeks. He became convinced that Eure was having an affair with a local podiatrist, though the podiatrist denied an affair in his own testimony this week. But Lewis told witnesses that he couldn’t let Eure simply walk out of their marriage after 17 years, and a witness testified that he previously told others that he’d kill his wife if she ever cheated on him .
Federal agents arrested Lewis the next morning as he was waiting to board a plane at Dulles International Airport, bound for Jamaica.
Cell phone tracking
Andrew Parker, a Newport News police detective in the technical investigations unit, attempted to connect the dots on the prosecution’s case Tuesday afternoon with a slide presentation that combined cell tracking data, satellite maps and surveillance footage.
Parker used cell phone tracking records to pinpoint where Lewis’ phone and Eure’s phone were at different times. He added that to satellite imagery from Google Maps, mapping movements of the couple’s two cell phones between Gethsemane Baptist Church, the family’s South Avenue home and other places.
The data shows that Eure left home that morning at 8:10 a.m., and arrived at Roanoke Avenue church about eight minutes later. Lewis arrived at the church at about 9:05 a.m., but was only there about five minutes before leaving, according to church surveillance footage and phone tracking data.
Eure made an announcement at the church at 9:17 a.m., urging the congregation to show up for an anniversary event for the pastor three days later. “Let’s fill it out and have a packed house,” she told the church members, according to the Facebook Live stream played for jurors.
The slide show also included security footage from the couple’s home — with Lewis coming and going several times throughout the day.
He bought a ticket that morning for the flight to Jamaica the next day. The flight would be out of Dulles, by way of Norfolk. Early in the afternoon on July 17, Lewis drove to pawn shops in Portsmouth and then in Chesapeake, where he sold off four pieces of jewelry — some of them his wife’s — for $900.
Lewis told his sons that their mother was “walking around the neighborhood.” The cell phone tracking data shows his phone going to the Patrick Henry Mall, where his son testified that he had the boys go to try to sell some shoes at a shoe store there.
Lewis’ truck was found after his arrest at a motel on West Mercury Boulevard in Hampton.
All throughout July 17, the evidence shows, both his phone and Shanita’s phone were active.
Prosecutors contend he responded to Shanita’s sister, Deidre Eure, by pretending to be Shanita — assuring Deidre that she was OK and simply walking down Jefferson Avenue “to clear her head.” Parker’s cell phone data showed Diedre continually trying to call Shanita’s phone throughout the day.
According to trial evidence, Deidre came across Lewis parked at a dumpster near a small Jefferson Avenue building. He was drenched in sweat, she said. Police later found Eure’s shoes, purse and a Bible in the dumpster.
In the week or so before Eure disappeared, Parker’s presentation shows several searches on Lewis’ cell phone browser history.
“Will shooting someone point blank in the back paralyze them?” the person using Lewis’ phone asked in one Google search on July 9.
“What sentence does a murder charges have in Virginia?” came another question three days later. “Can you overdose on blood pressure medicine and cause death?”
The questions ranged from whether divorce is “a sin,” whether a shot to the back of the head causes instant death, and the names of local private investigators.
Blood from truck inked to Shanita
Also at the trial on Tuesday, Department of Forensic Science testified about the process used to connect bloody material in Lewis’ pickup truck to Eure. Investigators found blood inside Lewis’ pickup, including on the floorboards and on rags.
Forensic examiners determined the blood DNA was a near-certain match to the DNA gleaned from a surgical face mask in Eure’s Hyundai. There was only infinitesimal chance it didn’t come from the same person.
Investigators then used a “familial DNA” process to tie the mask to Eure. They got a DNA sample from Eure’s mother and compared it to DNA from the mask, essentially proving a parent and offspring relationship.
“Ms. (Sherry) Eure appeared to be a biological parent of the donor of the surgical mask,” said Don Michael Cunnius, an analyst with the Department of Forensic Science.
And when he said “appeared,” it was a near mathematical certainty — greater than 99.9999% — that Sherry Eure was the parent. “This is the closest to 100% that we will ever see,” he said.
Phone calls from jail
Jurors also heard several phone calls between Lewis and others while he was locked up at the Newport News City Jail after the July 2022 arrest
“I’m not the bad guy, please don’t think I’m the bad guy,” he told his mother on July 26th. “I did nothing wrong.” He also told her he planned to move to China and become a Buddhist monk.
He told one of his sons in a phone call that Eure had cheated on him, and said purchasing a gun was her idea. “I never put my hands on her, never called her names, never threatened her,” he told the teen.
“Where’s mom at?” the teen asks him at one point.
“Don’t worry about that,” Lewis tells him. “She’s gonna turn up.” Then he tells him that “Dad is the good guy here,” and “I always protected you.” He advises his son to “join the military and get as far away from here as you can.”
When Eure’s mother, Sherry Eure, asks in a phone call whether her daughter was alive or not, Lewis kept repeating, “I can’t tell you that.”
“So where is she?” the mother replies.
“I can’t tell you,” Lewis says, adding that “your daughter broke up our marriage for a one-night stand.”
In another phone call, Lewis — who according to trial testimony was in an extramarital relationship himself — told another woman that “I’m not gonna have my life ruined by her decision. You reap what you sow.”
A Newport News police detective, Milke Scrimgeour, testified that police used officers — as well as dogs and drones — to try to find Eure, in some cases having to cut back brush to allow the search. The entire Newport News Police Academy helping in one of the searches, lining up grid-like to walk an area.
Based on Lewis’ phone movements that day — and times when he may have lingered in certain spots — police searched New Market Creek, Sandy Bottom Nature Park and sections near the pawn shop in Chesapeake, among other areas. The search continues, Scrimgeour said.
Peter Dujardin, 757- 247-4749, firstname.lastname@example.org