Maury Travis was a really agitated man. Since he was 14-years-old, he fantasized about killing. As a grown-up, he transformed his basement into a torture chamber where he murdered at least 17 women while recording their video, their pain, and ultimate death.
As a teen, Maury, known as “Toby” Travis, started killing pests and even his neighbor’s dog. He loved torturing women and assassinating them, but he was able to keep these urges under control for years.
Maury went to college as a young man but developed a $300 a day coke and crack habit, which over-control his life. He dropped out of school and started robbing shoe stores. He would pay sex workers for “rough” sex, which hide his dark side at bay.
Maury Travis Comes Out of Prison
After spending time in jail for the robberies, Maury was freed on parole and moved into a home owned by his mother in Ferguson, Missouri. He accepted a fining dining restaurant job as a server in Chesterfield, Missouri, and was shortly engaged. However, when his fiancee left him, Maury could no longer handle the dark side of him any longer.
He visited an area called “The Stroll” in St. Louis, where he picked up sex workers and carried them to his house to smoke crack with him there. At his house, in his basement, he abused these women to death and videotaped his cruelty with a video camera.
When police in St. Louis examined the home of suspected serial killer Maury Travis last summer, they discovered a secret torture chamber in the basement, with servitude equipment, a stun gun, and clippings about his slayings suspected.
But, most shocking of all, they discovered a videotape comprising footage of his crimes.
The tape, labeled “Your Wedding Day,” showed Travis tying women up and torturing and raping them. One scene showed him apparently smothering one of his victims to death.
The scenes on the tape were so annoying that Police Chief Joe Mokwa requested psychological counseling for the officers who viewed them. “They’ll give you nightmares,” he said
Travis, a 36-year-old hotel waiter, executed himself in jail before admitting to any of the murders, but St. Louis police conclude he killed between 12 and 20 women. At least two women survived brutal encounters with him; one was brain-damaged, and the other refused to press charges when police were called after she ran out of his home yelling in 2001. They have recognized 12 of his victims as drug-addicted prostitutes whose corpses were discarded along city streets and country roads in the St. Louis area between March 2001 and May 2002.
But in a letter Travis sent to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — which helped lead police to him — he boasted of killing 17 women.
“He claims he killed 17 women. We’re missing five of them,” said Mokwa.
Police believe Travis picked up prostitutes along a strip of Broadway just north of St. Louis, riddled with crack houses and prostitution, then took them to his ranch-style home in Ferguson, a nearby area.
They discovered many videotapes in Travis’ home revealing him giving the prostitutes crack cocaine to smoke and consensual sex with them. He apparently allows some of the women to leave at that point.
With one exception, the excerpts published to Primetime do not show Travis physically torturing the women, but blood splatters are noticeable on the walls and floor. When they checked the basement after his arrest, police noticed that the walls had been repainted numerous times, with layers of paint, then blood, then paint, then blood.
In 2002, Post-Dispatch reporter Bill Smith wrote a profile of one of the victims, “sob story“; five days letter, Smith received an anonymous letter claiming credit for 17 murders. Following the letter was a map of West Alton, marked with an “X” to point out where a body could be located.
After discovering a skeleton there, authorities focused on the map, which seemed to have come from an Internet service. Detectives observed an obvious match on Expedia.com, according to an affidavit by FBI agent Melanie Jimenez.
On May 30, Expedia told Jimenez that Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., gives the information for its map site.
So the FBI, using a subpoena, inquired records of any maps of West Alton made between May 18, the date of the newspaper story that spurred the letter, and May 21, the postmark on the envelope. It took four days to get a response.
On June 3, Microsoft reported back that only one computer had done it. The company said that on May 20, the computer had “zoomed in on the map of the West Alton, Missouri, area approximately 10 times in a chronological order to end with an exact match of the map” sent to the Post-Dispatch, Jimenez said in the affidavit.
But Microsoft could give no name. Just an address that is unimportant to most people: It was the Internet Protocol address of 220.127.116.11
The FBI turned to WorldCom Inc. to interpret the IP number, which gives local telephone numbers to connect Internet services to their dial-up customers. WorldCom allows a temporary IP address to each customer for each Internet session. The question was not just who used 18.104.22.168, but who used it at the time in question.
On June 4, WorldCom’s Internet division, UUnet, identified the user the evening of May 20 as MSN/maurytravis, Jimenez said. The MSN stands for Microsoft Network.
The FBI went back to Microsoft Network later the same day to recognize the customer. It was Maury Troy Travis of Ferguson.
That was the groundwork for inspection and, on June 7, an arrest and search warrant that officials said helped fix the case with DNA and tire tread evidence linking Travis, a 36-year-old waiter, to some of the killings. He was charged with two counts of kidnapping in federal court documents that associated him with seven murders overall. Police believe he may have killed ten or more.
After his imprisonment, Travis was locked in a super-maximum security jail cell and put on suicide watch with a guard outside his door. But while a one-hour shower break — the one time of day the guard did not have an unobstructed picture of all of his cell — Travis succeeded in hanging himself in the back corner, using a thin rope he had braided from a torn-up sheet. He had also fastened his own hands behind his back.
St. Louis police are sure that Travis was the killer accountable for the bodies turning up through 2001 and 2002. Whether or not his boast of 17 victims was confirmed, police think he presumably killed more victims than the 12 they have recognized so far.
“Who are these other women and where are they?” said Chief Mokwa. “There are some families out here that have a lost loved one, and they’ll always be uncertain of what happened to them.”
Information about his Victims
- Alysa Greenwade, found in 2001 (formally charged)
- Teresa Wilson, 36, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
- Betty James, 46, found in 2001 (formally charged)
- Verona Thompson, 36, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
- Yvonne Crues, 50, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
- Brenda Beasley, 33, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
- Cassandra F. Walker, 19, found in 2001
- Several unidentified women
It seemed that Travis had been ignorant of the facility with which Internet use can be discovered. In fact, lack of knowledge – coupled with the easy use of technology by law enforcement and the absolute plenty of information on the Web – troubles civil libertarians.
Things were going well for Travis. He was strongly killing drug addicts and prostitutes in St. Louis, Missourri, and neighboring East St. Louis, Illinois. Police were hesitant to admit that a serial killer was liable for the rash of killings. His movements had created a ripple barely even in the cities he lurked.
Perhaps because of this possible lack of awareness, he decided it was an excellent approach to point officials to the decomposing remains of an undiscovered victim near West Alton, Missourri, by giving directions to a local newspaper. The woman’s body (still unidentified) was discovered, sure enough, just across a road from where two of Travis’ earlier victims were discovered.
Unfortunately for Travis, he had inserted an Internet-generated map with his written letter. Police quickly discovered the map back to the only IP address to download it recently.