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Man with history of domestic violence charged with killing his child’s mother

Leroy Lewis | Chicago police

A man accused of strangling a 35-year-old woman at her Washington Park home has had more than 15 police reports filed against him by multiple women accusing him of domestic violence, according to Cook County prosecutors.

Leroy Lewis, 45, was denied bail at his initial hearing Wednesday on a charge of first-degree murder in the Sept. 25, 2017 death of Tanisha Austin. Lewis and Austin had been in a relationship off-and-on over 17 years; they had a 9-year-old daughter, prosecutors said.

The month before Austin was killed, Lewis called Jackson Park Hospital, where Austin worked, more than 40 times during a single shift asking to speak with her, prosecutors said. During one of the calls, he allegedly threatened her.

Austin subsequently sought an emergency order of protection against Lewis, which expired 13 days before she was killed, according to court records.

On the night before Austin was found dead, Lewis was recorded on video surveillance going into her apartment building in the 6200 block of South Michigan Avenue, prosecutors said. He rode the elevator to the floor below her apartment, got off and went into a stairwell.

When Austin came home early the next morning, she entered her apartment and was followed inside by Lewis, prosecutors said. During an argument, Lewis grabbed Austin by the throat and squeezed until she fell to the ground. He then carried her to her bed and left her.

Hours later, Lewis returned to the apartment with Austin’s oldest daughter, telling her he was concerned after not being able to reach her mother. In the apartment, they found Austin dead in her bed and Lewis went to the building’s front desk to call authorities, prosecutors said.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Austin’s death was a homicide by strangulation in December that year.

A Chicago police report showed Lewis was taken into custody on an arrest warrant on Monday in downstate Danville and charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors said he admitted grabbing Austin by the throat and knowing that she was dead when he left her apartment.

At his bail hearing Thursday, Lewis’ assistant public defender said he was working at the time of his arrest, has four children and could afford to post up to $1,500 bond.

Judge John F. Lyke Jr. called the prosecutor’s testimony against Lewis “extremely disturbing” and said Lewis “appeared to lie in wait for this young lady” before she was killed. Lyke also cited Lewis’ extensive background of domestic violence arrests in his decision to deny bail.

Lewis’ next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday.