August 19, 2022

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The map that led St. Louis police to ‘The Videotape Killer’

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – He was referred to as “The Avenue Walker Strangler” and the “Videotape Killer.” Investigators linked him to the murders of 12 intercourse staff within the St. Louis space. Nevertheless, he claimed to have killed way more.

For years, somebody focused these on the fringes of society, committing wicked acts towards Black ladies hooked on medicine and determined for cash. His victims frequented an space referred to as “The Stroll,” a bit of N. Broadway within the Baden neighborhood.

The Avenue Walker Strangler would lure these ladies again to his house with cash and medicines solely to bind and kill them earlier than discarding their our bodies like trash alongside St. Louis metro space roadways. Between July 2000 and Could 2002, authorities in a number of jurisdictions discovered the stays of a number of ladies linked to him.

The FBI was introduced in to help within the investigation when native authorities realized that they had a serial killer on their fingers.

  • July 31, 2000: Mary Shields, 61; present in East St. Louis, Ailing.
  • March 24, 2001: Cassandra F. Walker, 19; present in Washington Park, Ailing.
  • April 1, 2000: Alysa Greenwade, 34; present in Washington Park, Ailing.
  • Could 15, 2001: Teresa Wilson, 36; present in West Alton, Mo.
  • Could 30, 2001: Betty James, 46; present in St. Louis
  • June 29, 2001: Verona Thompson, 36; present in West Alton, Mo.
  • Aug. 25, 2001: Yvonne Crues, 50; present in East St. Louis, Ailing.
  • Oct. 8, 2001: Brenda Beasley, 33; present in East St. Louis, Ailing.
  • Jan. 30, 2002: Unidentified sufferer discovered close to Mascoutah, Ailing.
  • March 11, 2002: Unidentified sufferer discovered close to Highland, Ailing.
  • March 28, 2002: Unidentified sufferer present in Columbia, Ailing.
  • Could 25, 2002: Unidentified sufferer present in West Alton, Mo.

DNA from an unidentified assailant was discovered on the our bodies of Crues and Beasley. Police additionally made word of two completely different units of tire tracks on the areas of James’ and Greenwade’s our bodies. A tire mark was left on James’ leg — a Goodrich Benefit tire. A observe situated close to Greenwade’s physique was that of a Bridgestone Potenza.

TV and print reporters referred to the killer because the Avenue Walker Strangler.

The letter

In an effort to make clear one of many victims and hold public curiosity within the investigation, reporter Invoice Smith of the St. Louis Submit-Dispatch wrote an article about sufferer Teresa Wilson and her struggles in life earlier than her tragic finish. The article ran within the Could 19, 2002 version of the paper. Lower than every week later, Smith obtained a letter at his desk. Whereas it’s commonplace for members of the media to obtain letters or correspondence, this letter had an odd return handle on the envelope – I Thralldom, 325/331 Lafayette Avenue, New York, NY 10012. The letter was postmarked in St. Louis, which means it had been mailed domestically.

The zip code 10012 covers elements of the Soho, Noho, Nolita, and Greenwich Village neighborhoods in Manhattan. However the “I Thralldom” location is fictitious; so why would somebody use that phrase for a location? Merriam-Webster defines thralldom as “the state of being an enslaved particular person.” It was additionally the identify of a bondage web site.

The letter had been typed on a phrase processor utilizing what gave the impression to be the Lucida Handwriting font with purple print and little in the way in which of punctuation. At first, Smith thought any individual was pranking him. He quickly realized the letter was no joke and that an individual claiming to be the Avenue Walker Strangler was reaching out to him.

Pricey Invoice, good sob story about Teresa Wilson. Write one about greenwade write one and I’ll let you know the place many others are to show im actual right here’s instructions to quantity seventeen search in a fifty yard radius from the X put the story within the Sunday paper just like the final.

Letter to Invoice Smith from the Avenue Walker Stranger

The map

The letter got here with a map printed on the identical sort of paper. Its edges had been trimmed to take away the web site the place it got here from. The map had a small X drawn on it, simply yards away from the St. Charles Avenue on/off-ramp situated alongside southbound Freeway 67 in West Alton, Missouri.

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Invoice Smith turned the letter and map over to authorities. When police searched the realm, they discovered the skeletal stays of an unidentified lady. Investigators couldn’t discover any prints or traces of DNA on the map and letter. They appeared to have struck a useless finish but once more.

A cybercrimes investigator with the Illinois State Police made a breakthrough within the case. He spent hours looking each on-line and CD-based service providing interactive maps to most people. He finally found the map despatched by the killer had been printed off the journey web site On the time, Expedia was utilizing Microsoft as its map supplier.

As reported on Forensic Recordsdata, the maps had been proprietary, which means Expedia was the one place providing that map. Federal investigators subpoenaed Expedia and Microsoft to search out out everybody who had used their website to look that individual space of West Alton, Missouri between the time Invoice Smith’s article had been printed (Could 19) and the postmark on the envelope (Could 21).

Expedia and Microsoft traced the map to a single IP handle. One pc had downloaded that map on the night of Could 20. That IP handle was situated on the service supplier UUNET. When investigators contacted UUNET, they had been directed to a residence within the 1000 block of Ford Drive in Ferguson, Missouri. Experiences indicated the house was owned by an older lady. The house was positioned on 24-hour surveillance.

Assembly Maury

On the morning of Friday, June 7, Det. Sgt. Tim Sachs of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Division accompanied FBI brokers and different legislation enforcement to the house on Ford Drive to talk with the particular person or individuals dwelling there. Maury Travis answered the door. A girl was with him. He was not in temper.

Maury Travis

“He was mad. He was in a pair of boxer shorts. The very first thing out of his mouth was, ‘It’s 7 o’clock within the morning,’” Det. Sgt. Sachs stated on Forensic Recordsdata. “You’re proper, it’s 7 o’clock within the morning. And we’re serving a federal search warrant. ‘Okay. Why are you right here?’ Our response was you realize why we’re right here. He dropped his head and he stated, ‘Yeah, I do know why you’re right here.’”

The bottom ground of the house was tidy and well-kept. The girl, recognized as Travis’ girlfriend, advised police she had by no means been within the basement.

Downstairs, investigators uncovered a home of torture. They discovered bloodstains on the partitions and the ceiling, and within the carpet and furnishings as nicely. They found varied ladies’s gadgets like footwear, underwear, and wigs, together with a stun gun. The pc in query can be within the basement. Police break right into a file cupboard within the basement and discover a knapsack containing tape, belts, rope, and gloves.

Whereas police searched the house and basement, the FBI brokers and different investigators on the case questioned Travis in his front room for the following two hours. They discovered his mom had owned the house and was letting him keep there. Authorities later stated Travis wouldn’t admit or deny something. As a substitute, he appeared extra thinking about how they arrived at his doorstep.

Travis turned irate when detectives advised him the computer-printed map had given him away. Shortly thereafter, police took Travis outdoors and put him in a automotive. He agreed to go downtown with the police for additional questioning. Laptop forensic specialists went inside the house to look at Travis’ pc. They found drafts of the letter despatched to reporter Invoice Smith.

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Additional questioning

As soon as at police headquarters, Maury Travis scoffed on the notion that these slain intercourse staff had been victims. Det. Sgt. Sachs put footage of the ladies on a desk in an interrogation room and requested Travis if he is aware of any of them. Travis stated no. Minutes later, Travis requested to take a look at the photographs of the useless ladies.

Sachs knowledgeable Travis that they by no means advised him these ladies had been murdered. Travis would go quiet. He then shocked investigators by providing to cause them to one other physique in East St. Louis.

Nevertheless, whereas approaching the Poplar Avenue Bridge on Interstate 64, Travis modified his thoughts and advised police to take him again to jail. Nevertheless, he nonetheless hadn’t confessed to any crime.

Again in custody, a detective requested Travis if he needed something to eat or drink. Travis requested for a soda and the detective obliged. After Travis completed his drink, he tossed the can away. The can was later collected and swabbed for DNA proof.

The St. Louis Police crime lab finally confirmed the DNA from the can matched the DNA proof taken from the our bodies of Crues and Beasley. In the meantime, the blood present in Travis’ basement—over a thousand samples in all—matched not less than six of the recognized victims.

The video tapes

Again at Maury Travis’ residence, investigators discovered a number of videotapes within the basement. What’s on these tapes is so horrific and disturbing, then-St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa ordered each detective who watched the tapes to endure psychological remedy and counseling.

One of many tapes, labeled “Your Marriage ceremony Day,” exhibits Travis torturing, abusing, raping completely different ladies. A bit of the tape exhibits he filmed himself killing Cassandra Walker. Within the video, Walker is chained to a picket help beam within the basement, her fingers and legs restrained behind her. Travis then wraps a belt round Walker’s neck and strangles her.

With Walker useless on his basement ground, Travis is heard saying, “That is first kill. Primary. First kill was 19 years previous. Title? I don’t know. I don’t give a —-. …First kill was good.”

Travis’ psychological and bodily torment additionally included gagging his victims and wrapping masking tape round their faces. He ridiculed one sufferer for getting right into a automotive with a stranger whereas torturing her.

“You sorry?” Travis asks one lady.


“You sorry about what?” he asks once more.

“All the things,” the girl says.

“For leaping in a automotive with a — you don’t even know? Hm? You sorry?”

“Sure,” she says once more.

When the girl says she’s elevating a baby with the assistance of her mother and father, Travis cuts her off.

“You ain’t elevating —, —! You’re over right here in your again smoking crack,” he says.

The horrors on the tapes are as graphic as they’re quite a few.

The plans

1646577048 443 The map that led St Louis police to The Videotape
Detectives stated Maury Travis had plans to increase his basement so as to add holding cells for feminine captives. (St. Louis Metropolitan Police Division)

In response to St. Louis Police Capt. Harry Hegger, investigators additionally discovered a crude diagram in Travis’ house exhibiting plans for a basement extension.

“He was going to construct two cells in there the place he may chain the ladies. He was planning for the air vents out the basement,” Hegger stated to FOX 2. “And since there can be no toilet services, he made an inventory of issues that he wanted and one was (grownup diapers) so he may hold these ladies captive for a while.”

Travis was taken to St. Louis County Jail and positioned on a 24-hour suicide watch whereas authorities in surrounding jurisdictions weighed their choices for felony expenses. He was held on federal kidnapping expenses in the interim, towards simply two victims – Betty James and Alysa Greenwade. Investigators had been in a position to match the tire tracks situated on James’ leg and close to Greenwade’s physique to Travis’ two automobiles.

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The tip

As detectives assembled a timeline for the murders of the suspected Avenue Walker Strangler, they realized a quick jail stint in late 2001 coincided with a pause within the killings. In the meantime, Maury Travis was plotting to take yet one more life – his personal.

Maury Travis took his own life inside this cell at the St. Louis County Justice Center
Maury Travis took his personal life inside this cell on the St. Louis County Jail on the night of June 10, 2002.

On the night of Monday, June 10, guards at St. Louis County Jail discovered Travis hanging from a makeshift noose in his cell. He was 36.

Travis had been on round the clock remark; guards had been scheduled to test on him each quarter-hour. Nevertheless, guards didn’t test on him for 2 consecutive remark durations. That gave Travis sufficient time to tear a strip from his bedsheet, thread it by an air vent above the bathroom, and make a noose. He even managed to restrain his personal fingers behind his again to maintain him from instinctively making an attempt to free himself.

Travis left a suicide word addressed to his mom.

Pricey Mother,

I’m sorry for the ache this brought on you and the household. My demise appears to be the one method out and a quick finish to all of the publicity. You had been the very best mom a person can have. However I’ve been sick for a very long time (sick within the head) since I used to be about 14. I don’t know why. I used to be simply sick. I’ve by no means felt regular or comfortable at any time in my life. I take into consideration the life I lead and what’s forward of me. This appears the very best answer for all concerned, particularly me as a result of I received’t spend the remainder of my life locked up or worse allow them to kill me with a needle. Inform grandma, Marina, James and all people I beloved them dearly. I really like you essentially the most, however you realize that.

Eternally your son, Toby Travis

Suicide word written by Maury Travis

His word lacked two issues: an act of contrition and regret.

Investigators who’ve studied the word imagine a life-changing occasion in Maury Travis’ previous drove him to grow to be a cold-blooded killer. However in interviews with individuals who knew Travis, detectives discovered no clues about his childhood or upbringing that may have led to this; no incidents of abuse as a baby or different trauma.

A photocopy of the suicide note left by Maury Travis
A photocopy of the suicide word left by Maury Travis. (St. Louis Metropolitan Police Division)

“He had a whole lot of disdain for prostitution. He had a whole lot of disdain for ladies who didn’t supervise their kids correctly,” Mokwa stated. “And received a whole lot of shallowness out of humiliating, degrading, and murdering folks.”

Travis lived as an enigma. In demise, his motives stay eternally shrouded. Native police finally turned a report over to federal authorities so it could possibly be used for coaching cadets on the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Maury Travis was by no means formally charged for any of the murders. And whereas police situated the our bodies or stays of 12 ladies, Travis claimed to have killed 17. By taking his personal life, Travis could have taken with him any hope of discovering the stays of these 5 different victims.

“I used to be devastated. It was horrible. It was the worst factor that might occur within the investigation – was for (Travis) to kill himself,” Det. Sgt. Sachs advised Chilly Case Recordsdata.

“We had an ideal case. That wouldn’t have been an issue, taking this to trial and getting a conviction. However all the data we may have gleaned from him, not solely about his crimes however wanting into the thoughts of what makes folks do issues like this. We had one million questions. One million and one questions. And (Travis) took each reply with him.”

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