Georgia man is accused of killing his wife's divorce lawyer and setting his office on fire

A Georgia divorce lawyer was recently shot to death by the husband of an estranged client – and his office was set on fire – an extreme example of how contentious family court cases can be in the US, authorities said.

Lawrenceville Township police allege that on Dec. 7, Allen Tayeh walked into the office of an attorney representing a woman seeking a divorce from him and shot the attorney, Doug Lewis.

Tayeh is accused of then dousing Lewis' office with gasoline and setting the building on fire before firefighters arrived to put out the fire and discovered the body of the slain man, local news agency KENS reported, citing police.

A witness outside the law office during the fire led investigators to Tayeh, who was burned nearby and was carrying a revolver with empty cartridges in the drum, police told KENS. According to the officers, he was also in an area where there were gas cans and there was a smell of gasoline.

Investigators charged Tayeh with first-degree murder and arson. Tayeh was scheduled to meet his estranged wife and Lewis at a court hearing in the coming days, police added.

“It’s pretty brazen,” Lawrenceville Police Lt. Jake Parker told KENS about Tayeh’s alleged actions. “It kind of comes out of the blue.”

Lewis' murder and the destruction of his office shocked the legal community in Lawrenceville, a city of 30,000 just 30 miles from Atlanta.

“Doug was a consummate gentleman,” Lewis' lawyer colleague Phil McCurdy told KENS the day after the murder. “I never heard him raise his voice, I never saw him lose his temper. I never saw him treat anyone except with respect.

“I don’t know anyone who didn’t respect him as a colleague, as a professional and as a person.”

Jesse Kent, a former law partner of Lewis, remembered him as an attentive husband to his wife and a loving father to his children.

“He was the standard that all lawyers, including myself, wanted to achieve,” Kent wrote in an email to the local station. “The legal profession will never be the same without him.”

According to the American Bar Association Journal, it is rare for lawyers to be physically attacked because of their work. However, the ABA Journal added that a series of 2018 surveys measuring violence against lawyers found that family lawyers were threatened more frequently in the past year and were more likely than lawyers in general to report being attacked, particularly by someone who had already threatened her.

That's likely because family law cases, which often involve divorce and related custody issues, evoke particularly strong emotions among those involved, said a lawyer interviewed by the magazine.