Photo by isaac jarnagin on Unsplash
Maury Travis was one of the most vile predators of the early 2000?s. Over the course of his two year killing spree, he brutally tortured, raped, and strangled upwards of twenty women; all the while documenting his sadistic crimes on video. Travis preyed upon the marginalized and impoverished communities of Missouri and Illinois; specifically targeting sex workers and women of color as his victims.
Maury Travis was born on October 25, 1965 in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was just a young boy, despite this Travis had a fairly normal and well adjusted childhood. For most of his early life Travis flew under the radar, described by many as being ?quiet and withdrawn.? Upon graduating high school, Travis served two years in the army reserve and eventually went on to attend Morris Brown College in Atlanta. His venture into academia was short lived however; as he quickly became addicted to cocaine. This all consuming addiction prompted Travis to commit several robberies and during the winter of 1989 he plead guilty to five counts of robbery, serving five years for his crimes before being paroled. Despite his time in prison Travis found himself powerless to his drug addiction, landing him multiple stints in jail over the next few years. Ultimately Travis?s addictive tendencies would seal his fate. Finding himself locked in a downward spiral; Travis? compulsive behavior quickly evolved into destruction.
It is widely reported that Travis? killing?s took place over a two year period during 2001?2002, but police now theorize that Travis committed his first murder in between prison stints during July of 2000. Mary Shields, 61, was found murdered in East St. Louis. Police had no leads and the case went cold.
On March 19, 2001 Travis was released from prison. Just weeks after his release Travis began preying on sex workers in the neighboring states of Missouri and Illinois. He would lure victims to his home under the pretense of sex. Once inside the house Travis would tie up his victims (feigning interest in BDSM) he would then hold the women hostage; sometimes for days on end. During these twisted tourture sessions Travis would beat and rape his victims repeatedly, all the while documenting his attacks on video. By the end of 2001 Travis had brutally slain seven women.
Despite Travis? ever expanding list of victims, the murders had garnered very little media attention. Police were reluctant to entertain the idea that a possible serial killer might be at large. The victims were classified as ?high risk? by law enforcement because most of the women were involved in sex work and had varying degrees of substance abuse issues. The deaths were merely a consequence of their ?transient lifestyle?. It wasn?t until an article was pubilshed in a local newspaper that Travis? victims would finally see justice.
Travis? handwritten letter via St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Break In The Case
Unsatisfied with the lack of media attention surrounding the murders; Travis sent a note to Bill Smith, a local reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Enclosed with the note was a map pinpointing the exact location of an unidentified woman?s body, whom Travis claimed was his seventeenth victim. Upon reviewing this note Smith contacted local law enforcement, who then (with assistance from the FBI) launched a full scale investigation into the murders. After recovering the body of the unidentified woman, police took a closer look into who the killer might be. Fortunately, police didn?t have to search too far for answers. After a closer examination of the map, police realized it had been downloaded from Expedia. They contacted the website and obtained the IP address of the person who had printed off the map: Maury Troy Travis.
On June 7, 2002 Travis was arrested and charged with murder. FBI agents and local police officers did an exhaustive search of Travis? home, at which point they came across his collection of ?home movies?. VHS tapes with seemingly innocuous titles like ?Your Wedding Day? were littered throughout Travis? apartment. On these tapes Travis? had documented himself torturing and killing his victims. These videos were so disturbing that St. Louis Police Chief, Joe Mokwa ordered mandatory counseling for those in the department who had watched them.
With Travis behind bars St. Louis residents could finally rest easy, but justice for Travis? victims and their families was never truly served. Just days after his arrest Maury Travis committed suicide while in custody at St. Louis County Jail, claiming that suicide was ?the preferable choice? over life imprisonment or receiving the death penalty. Travis was thirty six years old.