Boyfriend claimed he didn’t mean to kill pregnant girlfriend, but search results showed he looked up ‘choke hold’ and ‘snapping necks’: Cops

Alexander J. Lewis strangled his pregnant girlfriend, Zaiylah Q. Bronson, to death in her apartment the morning of Aug. 26, 2023, police said. (Mug shot: Sedgwick County Jail; screenshot: Wichita NBC affiliate KSN)

Alexander J. Lewis strangled his pregnant girlfriend, Zaiylah Q. Bronson, to death in her apartment the morning of Aug. 26, 2023, police said. (Mug shot: Sedgwick County Jail; screenshot: Wichita NBC affiliate KSN)

A murder defendant claimed he didn’t mean to strangle his girlfriend to death, but search data revealed that he made incriminating searches amid the homicide, according to cops.

For example, Alexander J. Lewis, 22, looked up “choke hold,” just minutes before the victim, Zaiylah Q. Bronson, 19, was last seen on surveillance footage. Cops found the victim several hours later, dead and stuffed in the defendant’s trunk.

The allegations emerged in a partially redacted arrest affidavit unsealed on Thursday in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Lewis, who was arrested Aug. 26, remains at the local jail on a $500,000 bond for capital murder, records show.

“I just fell to the floor,” Zaiylah’s mother, Taronza Bronson, told KAKE in an Aug. 29 report about learning of the killing.

The victim attended Wichita State University – her mother said Zaiylah planned on becoming a math teacher.

“She was proud because she always wanted to tell me, ‘Mom I got a new car. Mom, I got a new job. Mom, I’m a manager now,”” Bronson said.

“She loved kids,” the 19-year-old’s godmother, Dawn Wilson, told KCUR. “She just loved people.”

Zaiylah Bronson was also about 16 weeks pregnant when she died, as indicated in the arrest affidavit.

“She had just found out that she was having a boy. And of course, we had that conversation,” Bronson told KAKE. “We even had a separate conversation on what she was naming it. And she would not tell me the baby’s name, she said no Mom, it’s a surprise.”

Officers said that the murder surfaced after Lewis’ mother called emergency dispatch. According to documents, she urged her son to call 911 and she contacted authorities herself after he told her that he had strangled Zaiylah Bronson to death.

Cops responded to the scene but found no one at the victim’s apartment. They pinged Lewis’ phone, tracking him down at his apartment, officers said.

“I got scared,” he allegedly said after officers asked Bronson’s whereabouts. “I was all over the place. I didn’t know what to do. My keys are on the box in the living room. She’s in my car.”

Cops said they opened the vehicle’s trunk to find Bronson inside and without a pulse, a white blanket covered her.

They did chest compressions, but paramedics arrived and pronounced her dead.

According to cops, Lewis described a contentious relationship and allegedly claimed that Bronson cheated on him and talked to other men multiple times.

“Approximately 3 and a half months ago, Zaiylah found out that she was pregnant with their child,” officers said.

The situation allegedly escalated on Aug. 25 when, according to documents, Lewis claimed he argued with Bronson. He had been calling her when she was at work, and she received a call from another, unknown man on the business line, he allegedly said.

They picked up the argument later that night at his apartment, and that ended with her breaking up with him, and quickly leaving, according to documents.

She texted that she was going to find another man who would listen to her, the defendant allegedly said. Lewis claimed Bronson also said other things he thought were meant to aggravate him.

“During past arguments, Lewis stated that Zaiylah became upset with him for leaving her ‘be’ and not pursuing her more, so he decided to go to her apartment,” police wrote.

At approximately 10 p.m. on Aug. 25, he went to her apartment. She answered the door while on the phone with another man, which made him, in his words, “very upset,” he told police, according to court documents.

Lewis and Bronson argued throughout the night without sleeping, and he said she got him to the point where he was “so done” with all the things she put on him, he allegedly told police.

The defendant said he wanted her to stop talking, so he “grabbed her,” according to documents.

“Lewis reiterated multiple times about how he didn’t mean to do so and that he didn’t mean to hurt her,” officers wrote.

But he allegedly admitted putting his left arm around her neck, while supporting the top of her head with his right hand and squeezing her neck.

Asked how long he held her, he allegedly said, he did not know because all he felt was anger.

“Lewis said that he held Zaiylah in said manner during which time she slapped his arm and was unable to speak until she stopped moving,” police said. He panicked and checked her, finding no signs of a pulse or breathing, he allegedly said.

The defendant allegedly said he wrapped her in a blanket and put her in his vehicle trunk. He called his mother, who encouraged him to return home and call police, according to documents. Lewis allegedly said that he did, but not before returning to Bronson’s apartment to pick up his beanie.

Asked about the ax and shovel in his car trunk with the body, Lewis said he was only storing those there after purchasing them several months before, officers said.

Police noted the defendant’s alleged search history on his cellphone.

“Several web searches on the evening of August 25, 2023, regarded stun guns, lethal weapons, and ‘weapons that can kill,’” officers wrote. “At 8:02:59 a.m. on August 26, 2023, a web search was made of ‘choke hold,’ which preceded Zaiylah last being seen on the apartment’s surveillance system by approximately 10 minutes. After multiple web searches regarding abortion, two searches were made at 08:51:32 a.m. and 8:52:09 a.m. of ‘snapping necks.’ At 10:57:51 a.m., web searches resumed regarding murder with the last one being searched for at 11:06:33 a.m.”

Surveillance footage at Bronson’s apartment complex showed her arriving home alone at 10:14 p.m. on Aug. 25. Lewis arrived there minutes later at 10:32 p.m., officers said. He allegedly opened his trunk and moved around the contents of the trunk, then loitered around the courtyard and adjacent stairwell before approaching the apartment door. It appeared he was allowed inside the residence, police wrote.

Lewis And Bronson and a dog briefly stepped outside to the courtyard several times through the night, with the final time happening at 8:13 a.m., almost 10 minutes after Lewis’ chokehold search and more than a half-hour before the search about snapping necks.

A status conference is set for Oct. 13.

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