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USF instructor charged with molesting minors

Fine Arts Production Specialist Thomas “Sparky” Lewis was arrested Tuesday under accusations that he molested two girls.

Lewis, 61, of 14716 Laurel Lake Lane in Lutz, posted a $52,500 bond this morning and faces seven counts of lewd and lascivious molestation charges of a victim under 18, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office.

Lewis is accused of inappropriately touching the girls after massaging the legs and feet of both of the victims, deputies said. One of the girls, 14, is a relative of Lewis and was spending the night with the other girl at his house the night of the incident. A victim’s mother contacted a children’s abuse hotline Sept. 1, which later contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office to make an arrest, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

According to USF spokesman Lara Wade, Lewis, hired in 1986, was not a professor but a shop manager who constructed scenes and backdrops for the Theatre Department. Wade said there was nothing in his file to indicate that he was capable of committing this type of crime.

Wade indicated that Lewis is on annual leave effective immediately and they are investigating the situation along with police to determine his future with the University.

According to a theatre student, who has worked with Lewis for the past four years and asked to remain anonymous, said Lewis was always “very nice and generous.” The student said Lewis would throw “survival parties” every semester and students would cookout, play basketball in the shop and clean up for the coming semester. He was surprised to hear of Lewis’ arrest.

The student said Lewis was in charge of supervising a theatre production lab that many theatre majors were required to take. He was currently working with Lewis on the Rocky Horror Show backdrop set to debut

on Oct. 4.

“I never thought anything, he was always very helpful,” the student said.