Melissa Lewis: Hotshot Rothstein Lawyer Found Dead In Canal On ‘Dateline NBC’

The murder of Melissa Lewis, a former Fort Lauderdale attorney at the now dissolved Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm, will be airing on Dateline NBC this coming Friday. Investigators say that the 39-year-old highly-paid attorney, known for her signature red Prada bag and her Judith Ripka ring, was found dead in a Plantation, Florida, canal almost a decade ago, according to the Miami New Times. Her killer was a man named Tony Villegas, a railroad engineer and the husband of her best friend, Debra Villegas, according to Dateline.

On Dateline’s show titled “Betrayed,” details about Melissa Lewis’ life as an attorney and her chilling and tragic end will be recounted by her friends and Florida police investigators.

Melissa Britt Lewis vanished from her home in March 2008. Her body was later found in a nearby canal in Plantation, Florida. Authorities were notified after Melissa Lewis failed to show up at her job, where she worked as an attorney. A search of her home indicated that she had been ambushed after arriving. Pepper spray was found all over the inside of her garage.

Detectives learned that Melissa Lewis had worked that day and had gone to a nearby Publix grocery store to purchase some items. Then someone was waiting for her when she arrived home.

When her body was finally found, anguished family members couldn’t think of a single person who would have wanted to kill her. However, police were led to a man named Tony Villegas, the husband of Melissa Lewis’ best friend, Debra. Debra had been having problems in her marriage to Tony Villegas, who by all accounts, was a violent and abusive man. Both Melissa Britt Lewis and Debra Villegas had gone through problems in life but were always there for each other. But Tony Villegas believed that Melissa, who always took care of people, had advised her friend to end the relationship with him.

A Costly Friendship

Even through Debra Villegas’ divorce, she would have been able to count on Melissa just as she always had. But authorities say that Tony Villegas wasn’t going to let that happen, and Melissa’s friendship with Debra led to her death since Tony blamed Melissa Lewis for their breakup. To get Melissa out of their lives for good, Tony decided to take matters into his own hands.

An autopsy report shows that Melissa Lewis was strangled before her body was dumped in the canal. Cell phone triangulation eventually connected Tony Villegas to Melissa’s murder.

Friends and family members say that Melissa Lewis was an intelligent and ambitious woman who took up for the underdog. She enjoyed cooking in her kitchen, and taking good care of herself. Her death was senseless and brought heavy pain to her family.

For the killing, Tony Villegas was found guilty of Melissa Lewis’ murder and sentenced to life in prison.

If you recognize the name Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, & Adler. That is the same prestigious law firm who was involved in the Rothstein Ponzi scheme. When the scandal broke in 2010, many people wondered if Melissa Lewis’ death had something to do with what she knew since Scott Rothstein and her friend, Debra, were implicated in the scheme.

However, Melissa Lewis’ death was domestic in nature, an act of revenge for a bitter and rejected husband.

A few more interesting details in the case.

  • When Melissa Britt Lewis disappeared, a reward of over $250,000 was offered for information leading to her whereabouts.
  • According to Debra Villegas, Melissa Britt Lewis had an affair with Scott Rothstein, one of the married attorneys at the firm. However, Melissa’s family members don’t believe that the story is true since Melissa started to despise him, the Broward Palm Beach New Times stated.
  • Melissa Lewis met Scott Rothstein when she was just a student. They say the high-rolling attorney was always having affairs with the students. Melissa was hired at the firm and worked her way up the ladder.

The case of Melissa Britt Lewis and the lavish lifestyle of the Rothstein attorneys was examined on True Crime With Aphrodite Jones. Watch Dateline NBC’s coverage of the story tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central. Last week’s Dateline was about Michelle Hadley and the Craigslist sex fantasy ads scheme.

[Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]