By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
There are a few things that everyone who has followed this case knows about the death of Andrew Lewis.
These things have been gleaned from media reports (mostly newspaper reports, since the local TV stations have avoided this story as if it were dipped in Ebola), which themselves were products of reports from the Montgomery Police Department and interviews with city officials.
Things like … Andrew Lewis died from a single gunshot wound. His car, a white Ford Explorer, hit a telephone pole before bursting into flames. Lewis’ killer, Eli Miller, was never taken into custody. Lewis’ longtime girlfriend, who was at the scene when Lewis died, had her car rammed by Lewis during an intense car chase.
These are all things people know.
These are also things that are almost completely untrue.
What will follow here is a complete rundown of the scene of Andrew Lewis’ death, taken from dozens of sources, documents, police interviews and reports and simply walking the scene and talking to those who live in the area.
First of all, to understand the oddity of this crime scene, we should probably start with this: There were two accidents in the same Bell Road front yard in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 2016.
Around 2:30 a.m. that morning, a car heading north on Bell Road lost control and went tearing down a small embankment and into the front yard of a residence, almost directly across Bell Road from the entrance to Henley Way. That car took out the support wire to power pole and knocked out electricity to the surrounding homes. It also shot across a berm and uprooted a small tree and several plants.
At roughly the same time, Andrew Lewis and Eli Miller were finishing up the second of two confrontations near the Alley Bar, where Lewis’ band was playing a gig. The 31-year-old musician would later go to the MPD precinct on Ripley St., as did Miller and Mary Jehle, Lewis’ longtime, on-and-off girlfriend who was on a date with Miller that night.
The dual reports were filed sometime between 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. After it was over, Lewis called a friend to say he was headed to his parents’ house to sleep. That was at 6 a.m.
Only two people alive today can say what happened next, but somehow, Lewis ended up near Jehle’s parents’ home Greystone Drive. From there, chaos ensued.
A week after this shooting, when I walked and drove the route between the Jehle home and the shooting scene, visible tire tracks were still evident from the three-car chase that took place. The tracks ran along Greystone, turned right onto Monticello Dr. – at one point, one of the cars was at least 25 yards from the road, but usually they were no more than a few feet off the road – and then turned right onto Bell Road, headed south.
From there, the cars are on asphalt and it’s impossible to discern exactly what happened. But we do know one key fact: Lewis’ car was headed north on Bell Road when it left the roadway. So at some point, the chase – assuming one was still ongoing at this time – made its way past the crash site, turned, and Lewis picked up enough speed that his car left the road, went down the embankment some 50 yards south of where the earlier car suffered the same fate.
Lewis’ car crashed through a berm filled with bushes and small trees and came to a stop between that berm and a berm farther north. When Lewis’ car, an older, white Explorer belonging to his father, came to a stop, it was facing north and a power pole was roughly 15 feet from the driver’s side door.
With presumably Lewis still driving the Explorer, tire marks evident in the grass, show that it was then driven backwards a few feet and a three-point turn attempted. That turn left the SUV’s front end facing Bell Road. It then moved forward – how quickly is unclear, but given the depth of the tire tracks in the grass, it couldn’t have picked up much speed – and came to a stop near the power pole. If it hit the pole, it did so only slightly, and on the passenger-side front bumper.
Now, we need to consider a few other things at this point, because so far I have provided information almost exclusively on Lewis’ Explorer. But several other key issues are still unknown.
Where were Jehle and Miller in their cars? Miller’s attorney, Andrew Skier, in a previous interview, made it clear that Miller and Jehle were not in the same car. The Lewis family said MPD detectives at first told them that Andrew intentionally rammed Jehle’s car. At some point later in the investigation, the same detective said that didn’t occur.
When were shots fired? Was it before Lewis’ crash or after? From other comments by Skier, it seems almost certain that the shots were fired prior to the accident. When I asked Skier in an interview a few days after the shooting how an unarmed Lewis could be considered a threat that might require deadly force to stop, Skier said that a vehicle could be considered a weapon. That would seem to indicate that the story Miller has told police is that he felt Lewis was attempting to cause him serious bodily harm with his Explorer.
But what occurs next at the scene is possibly the oddest question: After rolling into or near the power pole, Lewis’ SUV catches on fire. The fire is so hot and so intense that it melts away the vehicle’s side rearview mirror. Witnesses report flames as high as 20 feet in the air, and the power pole has burn marks at least that high up. And the blaze is mostly on the driver’s side – the side away from the power pole.
And even more strange: Andrew Lewis’ body wasn’t in his Explorer. It was found lying in the southbound lane of Bell Road – more than 30 yards away.
Witnesses at the scene reported that Lewis’ body was in the road prior to his Explorer catching fire. They also said they saw Jehle and Miller engaged in an emotionally charged conversation in the street prior to police arriving. After a few seconds, one of the two cars at the scene left, but it’s not clear who was in that car or where it went.
Skier made it clear that Miller was at the scene when police arrived and that he was never arrested. However, Miller was taken into a custody for questioning – at least, officially, according to a source. Had Miller attempted to leave the scene or refused to cooperate with the investigation, he would have been arrested, the source said.
Skier said Miller never provided a statement to police about the incident, instead allowing Skier to provide that statement on his behalf. Whatever that statement was, it must have been a good one, because Miller walked away without being arrested.