Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

June 16, 2011

Suspect, homeless, stayed in Lewis family's home

Three weeks ago, he packed up and moved out

TRAVERSE CITY — Carly Lewis' family reached out to Robert Jensen Schwander and offered the homeless teen a place to stay.

Schwander, 17, had been banished from his own home since December and spent weeks bouncing from home to home, couch to couch.

He stayed for a time with a family on Huron Street, then drifted to the Lewis' house on Webster Street, welcomed there by fellow Traverse City Central High classmate Mitchell Lewis, Carly's older brother.

Family members described Mitchell as a trusting and compassionate young man who holds strong religious convictions. Mitchell hoped he could influence Schwander to join his church.

In late winter the Lewis family opened its home to Schwander. He slept in the basement and promised to help with household chores.

"There's a boy I cared for and brought into my home," said Susie Lewis, Carly's mother. "He had nowhere to go."

About three weeks ago, Schwander suddenly packed up his few belongings and moved out.

"He just took off," Susie Lewis said. "I don't even know where he went."

'I'm so sorry, Susie'

Schwander resurfaced in a way Lewis couldn't have imagined. Police believe he killed Lewis' daughter, Carly, 16, about 7 p.m. on June 2, shortly after meeting her outside a grocery store off East Eighth Street.

Authorities said Schwander confessed to killing Carly in a shack off Beitner Street he'd fashioned into a makeshift home. Her body lay there two days before police said Schwander moved her to Traverse City's public works yard off Barlow Street and buried her in a pile of sand.

"I brought him into my home, and that's why it hurts so much," Susie Lewis said. "It's hard to fathom that somebody you know could do that. This isn't easy."

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