A Georgia divorce attorney was shot dead by the estranged husband of one of his clients before the disgruntled man torched his office with his remains still inside, authorities allege.
Lawrenceville police say Doug Lewis was alone inside his offices on Stone Mountain Street Wednesday evening when Allen Tayeh walked in and shot him dead.
Tayeh then allegedly poured gasoline all over Lewis’s office, and started a fire before he was spotted walking away from the scene of the crime suffering from burns of his own.
Investigators now say Tayeh owed Lewis more than $28,000 in legal fees, after the well-respected attorney won his ex-wife a $170,000 settlement and a judge ordered he pay for his exes’ attorney’s fees as well.
Tayeh, 65, is now facing felony murder and first-degree arson charges, and is being held at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.
Doug Lewis, a beloved divorce attorney in Lawrenceville, Georgia, was shot dead and his offices were set on fire Wednesday night
Authorities say Allen Tayeh, the estranged husband of one of his clients, was dismayed by how much he owed Lewis in legal fees before he shot him and ignited his offices
Authorities have said they were first alerted to a fire at Lewis’s offices inside an old, converted house at around 5pm.
When they arrived they saw the wood building was severely burnt, and once the fire was extinguished, firefighters found Lewis’ body still inside.
Soon, a witness told authorities on the scene they had seen a man walking away from the scene who also seemed to have been burned, and Lawrenceville police were able to detain Tayeh on the scene.
‘He did have a firearm on him,’ Lt. Jake Parker told WUSA, ‘a revolver that had spent cartridges in the cylinders. And there were gas cans and an odor of gasoline round the area as well.’
‘It’s pretty brazen,’ he added of the murder. ‘It’s kind of out of the blue.’
But court documents obtained by 11 Alive now suggest Tayeh may have been motivated to kill Lewis over the substantial settlement he won his ex-wife.
The documents state that Tayeh’s ex-wife filed for divorce in January 2021, and enlisted Lewis as her attorney. A verdict was then reached in August to dissolve the marriage.
Under the terms set forth by a local judge, Tayeh would have to give his ex-wife half of his retirement benefits, pay $138,000 within 90 days for her share of equity in their Dacula house and send her $500 in monthly alimony.
A judge then ruled in late October that Tayeh would also have to pay his ex-wife’s legal fees from the divorce proceedings — amounting to $28,483.23 — within 30 days.
Authorities were able to detain Tayeh at the scene after a witness spotted him walking away with burn marks on his skin
Tayeh is now being held at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond as he faces felony murder and first-degree arson charges
He had apparently never paid those bills, 11 Alive reports, with court filings from December 1 showing that Lewis requested a judge hold him in contempt of court for failing to make the payments.
‘The payment for attorneys’ fees was due to be received by Plaintiff’s counsel on or before November 30, 2022,’ Lewis wrote.
‘Defendant failed to make the payment for attorneys’ fees as ordered by the court,’ he continued, writing: ‘Defendant is in willful contempt of the court’s order dated October 31, 2022.’
A hearing was set to discuss the matter for December 14, but has since been canceled.
Firefighters arrived at the scene of Lewis’s law offices on Wednesday night to find it had suffered significant damage
Lewis is now remembered as a nice, family-man who has been in practice in Gwinnett County for 30 years.
‘I’m going to miss him,’ fellow attorney Phil McCurdy said. ‘He had a great sense of humor and a very quick wit.’
McCurdy said they were sometimes adversaries in court, but served as co-counsel at other times.
‘Doug was a consummate gentleman,’ he said. ‘I’ve never heard him raise his voice. I never saw him lose his temper. I never saw him treat anyone except with respect.
‘I don’t know anyone who didn’t respect him as a colleague, as a professional as a human being,’ he added.
Kristina Weaver also said she got to know Lewis and his family when their children were young.
‘I used to see him in Dacula Park all the time and he was just the nicest guy,’ she said. ‘He is well-known in the family court community, especially.
‘It’s just really sad.’
Meanwhile, Jesse Kent, a former law partner of Lewis said he was a ‘dedicated family man who cherished his wife and children.
‘Rarely did a day pass that he didn’t mention them or how proud he was of them,’ Kent said, adding: ‘Doug was a joy to be around; he was the standard that all lawyers — including me — aspired to be.
‘His absence was felt the moment he left us, and the legal profession will ever be the same without him.’