Woman claiming to be Jerry Lee Lewis daughter charged in baby's death

May 13 2011 - 11:55am

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A woman who says she is the estranged daughter of entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis has been charged with criminally negligent homicide after she passed out on top of her 5-month-old son, apparently smothering the infant.

Lori Lewis, also known as Lori Lancaster, remained in jail on Thursday under a $100,000 bond. She has an initial court appearance scheduled for next week unless she makes bond, in which case she would return to court in July.

According to police and court records, Lori Lewis Lancaster had taken several muscle-relaxer pills in the hours before she was discovered on top of the infant, Lennon Lancaster. An autopsy will be performed on the baby to determine the cause of death, Inspector Lee Covey of the Germantown, Tenn., detective division said.

Police executed several search warrants after the baby was discovered.

The information on those search warrants had not been returned Thursday and were not available. Such tests usually take weeks to complete.

Lori has claimed to be Jerry Lee Lewis' daughter, and at times, particularly after her birth in 1972, the legendary rock 'n' roll singer has acknowledged her as his child. But in recent years, Lewis has denied that he fathered Lori.

According to the affidavit of complaint filed in the infant's death, authorities were called to the Lancaster residence early Wednesday afternoon by the victim's grandmother, Naomi Lancaster.

Beckoned to the upstairs master bedroom by Lori's 5-year-old daughter, Naomi Lancaster found Lori Lewis "lying in bed with her legs on the floor and her torso area on the bed and underneath her stomach was (the infant)," according to court documents filed in the case.

Officers said when they arrived, Lori Lewis was "clearly impaired and also in close proximity to her unresponsive 5-month old (son)."

"'She was clearly unresponsive' is the best way to describe it," Covey said.

The grandmother told police that Lori had gone to the pharmacy that morning to pick up a 60-count prescription of Soma (Carisoprodol).

Police also found several medication bottles nearby when they arrived. The Soma (Carisoprodol) bottle contained 52 pills.

The affidavit of complaint states that Lancaster's drug use during the period while the infant was in her care "constituted a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person and particularly a mother would exercise, and that the defendant knew or should have known that a five-month-old infant could not protect himself ..."

The mother and infant were taken to Methodist Hospital-Germantown, where the infant was pronounced dead.

No one answered the door at the Lancaster home Thursday evening.

Lori Lewis Lancaster was in the headlines a year ago when her efforts to reconnect with Jerry Lee Lewis were outlined in a story in The Commercial Appeal. She was the only child of the singer's fourth marriage to Jaren Gunn. Lewis and Gunn went through a nasty divorce in 1982, when Lori was 10. Two weeks before the divorce was final, Gunn drowned in a swimming-pool accident.

Lori hadn't spoken to the singer in 15 years when she chronicled her efforts to reconnect with him in the June 27, 2010, story. Jerry Lee Lewis' handlers have since denied that Lori is the singer's natural child. Phoebe Lewis, a daughter from another Jerry Lee marriage, has said he married Jaren Gunn after she said she was pregnant.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com)


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