Tanaya Lewis, defense attorney Mark Brown, center, and William Cataldo, right, chief of homicide in the Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, stand before Judge Matthew Sabaugh during a March 2019 preliminary examination in the 37th District Court. Lewis pleaded no contest to the charge of first-degree murder on Aug. 12.

Tanaya Lewis, defense attorney Mark Brown, center, and William Cataldo, right, chief of homicide in the Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, stand before Judge Matthew Sabaugh during a March 2019 preliminary examination in the 37th District Court. Lewis pleaded no contest to the charge of first-degree murder on Aug. 12.

File photo by Brian Louwers


Suspect in fatal classroom stabbing pleads no contest

Sentencing in murder case scheduled for Sept. 16

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published August 21, 2020

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WARREN — Tanaya Lewis will be sentenced Sept. 16 for the 2018 murder of her one-time friend and fellow student, Danyna Gibson, in a classroom at Fitzgerald High School. A no-contest plea entered before Judge Kathryn Viviano in Macomb County Circuit Court means she may not spend the rest of her life in prison.    

Lewis, now 20, pleaded no contest to the charge of first-degree murder on Aug. 12.

Macomb County prosecutors said Lewis brought a kitchen knife to the school on Sept. 12, 2018, “calmly” walked over to Gibson during a second-hour economics class and stabbed her twice in the chest. According to testimony offered during a preliminary examination in the 37th District Court last year, Lewis apparently became angry after Gibson rode a bus to a cross country meet with a boy that Lewis had been dating and reportedly told the teen that Lewis had cheated on him.  

Gibson, 16, died at the scene, despite the efforts of school staff and a Warren Police Department resource officer to save her life.

Lewis was arrested, charged, referred for forensic psychiatric evaluation and ultimately ordered to stand trial for Gibson’s murder.

According to defense attorney Mark Brown, the plea agreement means Lewis may eventually be eligible for parole.

“I really don’t know what to say. I think this is a fair settlement and hopefully she’ll be able to get out and go on with her life,” Brown said Aug. 18. “She’s very remorseful. It’s a sad case all the way around.”

How much time she will ultimately serve will be up to the judge. First-degree murder is punishable by mandatory life in prison in Michigan, but a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling banned most mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. Lewis was 17 at the time of the stabbing. According to court records, the no contest plea was entered along with a Cobbs agreement stipulating that the jail sentence should fall within the bottom third of the sentencing guidelines.

“That’s the point of it,” Brown said. “She won’t have to do the rest of her life. That’s the important thing.”

William Cataldo, chief of homicide in Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Cloud’s office, said the recommended sentence would range from 25-30 years before Lewis would be eligible for parole.

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