Dempsey Lewis, formally known as Dempsey Hawkins, was convicted for murdering his 14-year-old ex-girlfriend Susan Jacobson in 1976 when he was just 16 years old.
After spending more than four decades behind bars in the United States, in 2017 the London-born, New York-raised man was deported to England as part of his parole conditions.
Currently living in Cambridge, Dempsey Lewis says he is keen to move to Ireland.
“It is a better country than Britain in the sense of its people,” he tells Nicola Tallant in an episode of Crime World
Explaining an ancestral link to Kilkenny, the killer said that Irish people also have warm personalities.
“Every person of Irish extraction that I’ve spoken to out here in Cambridge [has] just a lively, more engaging, warmer personality than the people that I’ve met here in Cambridge and in Britain,” he explained.
“If they’re from Ireland, you can talk to ‘em, you can relax with ‘em. It’s just a totally different person.”
“I don’t know if it’s in the DNA out there. I don’t know if it’s in the biology, but the people are just different people,” he continued.
Dempsey was born in 1959 to an English mother and an American father who was stationed overseas with the United States Air Force.
As a young child, his parents split up and when he was six he moved to Staten Island with his mother.
Dempsey compares his childhood growing up in New York to that of Huckleberry Finn, telling Crime World: “There was adventure in it. There was spontaneity, and there’s always spontaneity when you’re young because the only responsibility you have is school.”
Always up for fun with his close group of friends, his relationship with one in particular turned romantic.
At 15, he began dating 13-year-old Susan Jacobson but the pair were soon banned from seeing one another after Susan became pregnant and needed an abortion.
Despite their families forbidding them from seeing each other, the pair continued to meet in secret until the day that their love turned deadly and Dempsey decided he was going to kill her.
“I considered suicide and I was thinking of all the ways to commit suicide until I thought about murdering her and the insanity of it all was once I started thinking about the idea of murdering Susan, I could, I never got off it,” he said.
“I latched onto it. And it just, it was the only way I knew how to get off this emotional rollercoaster because we were supposed to end the relationship and I couldn’t see myself doing it.”
“I have no idea when it came upon me,” he continued, “but the idea started to formulate and as it started to formulate, I never let it go. I thought I would kill her, then kill myself. And that would be the end of it.”
Recalling the murder, he told Crime World about the moments following the tragic killing.
“I remember leaving that area and in that area, there was a factory. There was a dock. And I remember a heavyset guy in suspenders. He was just sitting out there, smoking a cigarette, just looking off into the distance,” he said.
“I remember thinking at that moment, what would he think if he knew what I had just done?”
Dempsey said he carried on his day as usual but could not get the image of the man on the dock out of his head.
After the cold-blooded murder, Susan was missing for years until her body was discovered in March 1978 hidden in an oil barrel in an underground bunker.
During the time in which her body was missing, Dempsey participated in searches with her family, leading them away from the area whenever they got close to where her body was hidden.
Now in his 60s, Dempsey said he felt relief when the police came to arrest him two months later in connection with the crime.
“When those handcuffs came on me and I heard the slow click, click of those handcuffs, that noise… it was almost a silence, you know, kind of quiet noise, but it was really thunderous in my mind.”
“That moment it was a relief, cos I didn’t have to run anymore. It was over.”
Despite his relief, Dempsey was unwilling to admit to the crime, despite confiding in two friends about the murder.
He went on trial and in April 1979 he was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to a minimum of 22 years behind bars.
Dempsey, who spent some of his time incarcerated at the notorious Rikers Island has said that despite his violent past people should not be afraid of him as he has more to fear of others.
“I consider myself a bigger spirit for having committed my crime and come out and have been a different person,” he said.
“And another thing, when it comes to people being afraid of me, I have more to be afraid of somebody else than, you know, somebody is afraid of me. I am no one to be afraid of in any instance.”
He says the violent memories of that fatal day in 1976 still haunt him.
“It’s not in my nature to involve myself in any type of violence, any type of wrongdoing. I don’t need any, another bad memory. I can’t take it. I don’t have space for it.”
“I don’t pose a threat. I committed my crime when I was 16. I’m much better. I have no propensity for criminality whatsoever. I’ve been out for five little over five years now and I have no police involvement. I had no instances of violence,” he said.
“I’m not a criminal. I’ve never been. I just had that one instance where emotion and immaturity over road reason, to the extent where I’ve destroyed a person and destroyed myself.”
Listen to the full interview with Dempsey Lewis, and more than 200 other episodes of Crime World with Nicola Tallant, available to listen to now wherever you get your podcasts.