Murder of Charles and Grace Lewis by William Rousan examined in Buried in the Backyard

Mugshot of William Rousan
William Rousan was executed for his role in the murder of Charles and Grace Lewis. Pic credit: Missouri Dept. of Corrections

Buried in the Backyard on Oxygen is investigating the murder of Charles and Grace Lewis, who were gunned down on their farm by William Rousan and his son, Brent Rousan, in rural St Francois County in Missouri.

On September 21, 1993, William and Brent Rousan, accompanied by William’s brother Robert Rousan hatched a plan to rob the Lewis couple of their cattle. William had known the couple since 1975.

On the way, the three killers discussed which cattle they would steal but also agreed to kill Charles and Grace if they were home. They decided, “If it had to be done, it had to be done.”

The murderous Rousan family stopped their truck some miles away from the couple’s farm so they could hike through the woods undetected.

William argued with 16-year-old Brent over who would carry the rifle, but when Brent insisted he was “man enough to do whatever needed to be done,” his father relented and gave him the weapon.

The trio took up their positions, hiding outside the farm. When 67-year-old Charles began mowing the lawn, Brent opened fire, hitting him six times.

William and Brent Rousan hunted the Grace and Charles Lewis

Grace had been on the phone with her eldest daughter when she heard the gunshots and went to investigate. After seeing the horror unfolding outside, she ran back into the house as Brent fired at her and William chased her.

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Inside the house, William managed to restrain Grace and carried her back outside, where he ordered his son to “finish her off.” Brent shot her once in the side of the head.

Mugshot of Brent Rousan
Brent Rousan is spending the rest of his life in jail for the murder of Grace and Charles Lewis. Pic credit: Missouri Dept. of Corrections

The killers stole two cows, a VCR, some jewelry, and other items. They also bundled up Charles and Grace’s bodies in a tarp and buried them under a manure pile at the farm of William’s girlfriend.

The murderers also took the couple’s truck, which they burned in a remote area about 30 miles from the farm.

The authorities could not figure out what had happened to the Lewis couple. On the day the couple disappeared, a once-in-a-century storm struck that evening, resulting in unusually high flood waters across the region. This led to speculation that Charles and Grace had been washed away.

However, when the cops found the couple’s burnt-out truck a month later, they knew they were dealing with a homicide.

Two major clues pointed to the Rousan killers

It took another year before the investigators got two strong leads. William’s brother-in-law made an anonymous call to the police implicating William in the killings. And William and Robert’s sister tried to sell the Lewises’ stolen VCR.

During the course of the investigation, the cops found themselves at William’s girlfriend’s farm and noticed a suspicious-looking manure pile. When they dug up the area, they found the grisly remains of Charles and Grace.

Incredibly William tried to claim that Grace had been in poor health and didn’t have long to live, and Charles didn’t want to live without his wife, so they asked William to kill him. The twisted thug called it a mercy killing.

Grace and Charles Lewis pose for the camera
Grace and Charles Lewis were murdered in a cold-blooded plot to rob their farm. Pic credit: Family pic

William Rousan was convicted of murder, and in 2014, he was put to death by lethal injection. Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was given life without parole. Robert Rousan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his two accomplices; he served seven years.

Buried in the Backyard airs Saturdays at 9/7c on Oxygen.

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