LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A contentious divorce case led to homicide and arson at the law offices of one of the divorce attorneys late Wednesday afternoon, according to court documents and police files.
Popular, beloved Lawrenceville Attorney Doug Lewis was shot inside his own law offices, and his offices were set on fire.
It turns out one of Lewis's clients was a woman who had filed for divorce early last year, and police said it was the woman’s husband who went after Lewis Wednesday.
Lewis’s law offices, in an old, converted house along Stone Mountain Street in Lawrenceville, were set on fire and severely damaged at about 5:00 p.m. Wednesday. Then, inside, firefighters found Lewis’s body.
“It’s pretty brazen. It’s kind of out of the blue," Lawrenceville Police Lt. Jake Parker said Thursday.
Lt. Parker said Lewis was in his law offices by himself when a man named Allen Tayeh walked in and shot Lewis. Then, Parker said, investigators believe Tayeh poured gasoline inside the offices and started the fire.
Lewis’s family, friends and colleagues are in shock and grief.
"I’m going to miss him," one of Lewis's colleagues, Attorney Phil McCurdy, said Thursday. "He had a great sense of humor and a very quick wit."
McCurdy said he and Lewis have been adversaries in several court cases as well as co-counsel in others.
"Doug was a consummate gentleman," McCurdy said. "I've never heard him raise his voice, I never saw him lose his temper. I never saw him treat anyone except with respect... I don't know anyone who didn't respect him as a colleague, as a professional, and as a human being."
Lewis and his client in the divorce case had been scheduled to meet Tayeh back in court next week for a hearing.
Outside the burning law offices on Wednesday, police said, it was a witness who led them to Tayeh, nearby. Tayeh, himself, had been burned.
"He did have a firearm on him," Lt. Parker said, "a revolver that had spent cartridges in the cylinders.... And there were gas cans and an odor of gasoline around the area as well."
Lewis was in law practice for 30 years.
Kristina Weaver got to know Lewis and his family on the ball fields years ago, when all their children were young.
"I used to see him in Dacula Park all the time," Weaver said, "and he was just the nicest guy. He was the nicest guy.... He is well known in the family court community, especially. I think he mainly dealt with divorce cases and things like that.... It's just really sad."
A close friend, Jesse Kent, who is a former law partner of Lewis, wrote in an email to 11Alive Thursday night:
"Doug was a dedicated family man who cherished his wife and children. Rarely did a day pass that he didn't mention them or how proud he was of them. Doug was a joy to be around; he was the standard that all lawyers - including me - aspired to be. His absence was felt the moment he left us and the legal profession will never be the same without him.”
Tayeh is initially being charged with two felonies, malice murder and arson.
Lawrenceville police, Gwinnett County fire detectives and the medical examiner are still investigating. So far, police said the suspect has not made any statements about any of this.