Career Criminal Charged With 2001 Killing

Police: Mississippi Convict Confesses

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Nearly seven years after a 59-year-old woman was shot and killed during the robbery of a St. Augustine gas station, detectives said a man serving a 150-year sentence in Mississippi has confessed to the crime.

Eva Lewis was shot and killed Nov. 27, 2001, inside the BP convenience store she managed at the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and state Road 16. She was found dead in the storage room of the business by a man who came in for coffee.

On Wednesday morning, police announced that Mark Dean Aldridge was charged with Lewis' slaying. Aldridge, 51, was serving a 150-year sentence in Mississippi when police said he confessed to killing Lewis. He was transferred to the St. Johns County Jail and faced a judge on the murder charge Tuesday morning.

Aldridge, 51, was an ex-convict at the time of the crime. In 1981 he was sentenced to serve 25 years in an Ohio prison for rape, sexual imposition, theft and aggravated burglary. He was released from prison on July 23, 2001.

Police said he was stationed in Jacksonville while in the military in the late 1970s and knew the area.

Police said that while serving a sentence for rape, kidnapping, armed robbery and burglary in Mississippi, Aldridge contacted corrections officials and said he had knowledge of a crime in Florida. St. Augustine police were contacted on May 2 and immediately sent two detectives to Mississippi.

St. Augustine Police Sgt. Barry Fox said Aldridge had knowledge of the crime that only someone who was there would know. Police also tested a gun police confiscated from Lewis in Kansas one week after the St. Augustine homicide was killed and found it matched the one used to kill Lewis.

Asked why Aldridge would confess this many years later, Fox told the St. Augustine Record that he "just more or less wanted to get it off his conscience."

Lewis' children said they were pleased that police have found the killer, but skeptical of Aldridge's reason to suddenly confess. They believe he wanted to serve out his years in a Florida prison, where conditions are better.

"I believe he confessed in order to get what he wanted," said the victim's daugher, Sandra Lewis.

"Justice is not done yet," son Steve Lewis said. "You know the judicial system is. It's not over until it's over."

Cold Case Detectives Never Gave Up Police said the homicide investigation was hampered because there was no security system in the store. Lewis had never been robbed during 16 years managing the store and was related to the owner, so was exempt from state law requiring a surveillance system.

St. Augustine police and St. Johns County deputies tracked more than 100 leads in the case and in 2005 charged two men in connection with the case.

Warren Moody, 38, and James Moody, 44, were serving time in Georgia for other offenses when they were charged with first-degree murder in the Lewis case. The Moodys -- who are not related -- had long criminal records, but no history of violence.

The State Attorney's Office dropped the charges against both men in August 2006.

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