Murder of Melissa Lewis by Tony Villegas featured on Vanished Into Thin Air

Tony Villegas mugshot
Tony Villegas was convicted of murdering his ex-wife’s best friend, Melissa Lewis. Pic credit: Florida Department of Corrections

Vanished Into Thin Air is featuring the murder of Melissa Lewis by her best friend’s ex-husband, Tony Villegas.

On the morning of March 6, 2008, Lewis had a meeting at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm, where she worked as an attorney, but the 39-year-old didn’t show up.

Her best friend contacted the local police department for a welfare check.

When officers arrived at Lewis’ home in Plantation, Florida, she wasn’t there. Her SUV, a black 2007 Cadillac SRX, was also missing.

Surveillance footage from the previous night captured Lewis leaving Publix with groceries.

Officers found her groceries in her garage, and a button from her suit was on the floor. 

Police officials also found pepper spray on the garage door, which led them to believe there had been a struggle.

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Melissa Lewis was found dead in a canal

On March 6, 2008, maintenance workers inspecting a clog in the grating system at the New River Canal found Lewis’ body floating in the canal.

Her vehicle was found abandoned in the parking lot nearby.

An autopsy determined that she died from manual strangulation.

Lewis’ cause of death led the police to believe it was personal and therefore questioned those closest to her.

They excluded her ex-husband, as there was no evidence to suggest he had anything to do with her murder.

DNA evidence and pings from Melissa Lewis’ cell phone led to Tony Villegas’ arrest

After reviewing Lewis’ cell phone records, investigators uncovered that after the killer dumped her body in the canal, her cell phone last pinged in Hialeah, Florida.

Investigators then re-interviewed several of Lewis’ closest friends and relatives, including her best friend. She told them that Villegas was staying in an apartment in Hialeah with a roommate.

Villegas’ roommate told investigators that on the night Lewis was murdered, he asked him how to remove pepper spray from his body.

When DNA evidence found on Lewis’ suit matched Villegas, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Despite the evidence, Villegas said he was innocent. He claimed that he was set up. 

Prosecutors stated that Villegas was “jealous of her relationship with his ex-wife and believed that Lewis was responsible for ending his marriage.”

In 2010, Villegas was deemed incompetent to stand trial, but that changed when the state cleared him. 

On June 27, 2016, a jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding Villegas guilty.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

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