Grand jury to hear charges against man accused in fatal 2017 drug deal

Terrence Lewis
photo Terrence Lewis

A 22-year-old's charges that he robbed and killed a college student during a 2017 drug deal are moving onto the next phase of the criminal justice system.

Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Alex McVeagh on Wednesday said enough probable cause exists to send Terrence Lewis' criminal homicide and especially aggravated robbery charges to a grand jury. If the grand jury indicts Lewis, his case will go to Criminal Court.

Though Lewis' defense argued Wednesday the proof against him was "entirely circumstantial," prosecutors called three witnesses to describe the state's investigation into a Dec. 28, 2017, drug-deal-turned-shooting that killed 20-year-old Evan Derry.

The first, Baxter McCurry, said he and Derry sold marijuana in the area and planned to meet up with Lewis, an acquaintance who wanted to pay off a debt to McCurry by moving about 16 pounds of marijuana for him.

McCurry, 22, said he rode in the front passenger seat of Derry's car as Derry drove to an apartment complex parking lot on Bishop Drive. They had planned to meet Lewis earlier around 5 p.m., McCurry said, but Lewis cancelled, saying they needed to reschedule to around 8 p.m.

McCurry said Lewis got in the back passenger seat, but then said he forgot something in his vehicle. McCurry said he asked Derry to back next to his car so he could get what he needed.

But after that, McCurry never saw Derry alive again.

"[Lewis] turned like he was getting out of the vehicle," McCurry said Wednesday. "When he turned back, he had pepper spray. He sprayed me in the face. My response was to open the door and get out."

McCurry said Lewis then sprayed Derry, who started to drive away and crashed into a nearby tree. As McCurry ran into the nearby woods, he saw three armed men in hoodies running toward him. Gunshots rang out.

A nearby resident testified Wednesday that she was cooking dinner when she heard three gunshots and ducked. She looked outside and saw a car a little way down the road. Somebody got out, checked on the driver and then took off, the resident said.

Lewis' defense attorney, Rebecca Stern, noted the resident couldn't see who that "somebody was." She also suggested Lewis used the pepper spray because he saw a gun in the vehicle. McCurry testified that neither he or Derry went armed to the drug deal.

Derry later died at Erlanger hospital from a gunshot wound to the head.

The state's third witness, Chattanooga police investigator Daryl Slaughter, said he found about three - no longer 16 - pounds of marijuana and a cellphone in Derry's vehicle. It belonged to McCurry, who had fled to Smyrna, Tennessee, where one of his relatives lived. And it contained messages between him and Lewis that placed Lewis at Bishop Drive, Slaughter said.

Slaughter said he found Lewis in early January. During an interview, Slaughter said, Lewis gave a couple of different stories about who had his car, but admitted that he was in Derry's car when Derry took off and crashed into a tree.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.