Man confesses to '97 murder

Thursday, December 4, 2003

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A man recently convicted for federal drug-related crimes has confessed to a 1997 murder for which he had previously been acquitted, interim U.S. Attorney Ronald Tenpas said Wednesday. Gary Starks, 41, admitted to police here that he was the one who killed Pamela Travis in 1997, Tenpas said.

He made the admission as investigators were questioning him in a drug case last month, the prosecutor said.

Travis, 29, was the mother of twin 22-month-old girls when she was found strangled inside her apartment, The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale has reported.

When Starks was acquitted of the murder in 1998, he wept, hugged family members and his attorneys, and said, "Thank you, Jesus," the newspaper reported at the time.

Although he has confessed, Starks won't end up doing time for the killing because the Constitution precludes him from being tried for the same crime twice.

But Starks will spend the next 20 years in prison, the prosecutor said.

Starks received a 235-month sentence Nov. 21 after he was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, Tenpas said.

The sentence was extended beyond what it would have been because of prior convictions on battery and aggravated battery charges unrelated to the Travis killing, Tenpas said.

Starks' attorney, John Delaney, declined to comment Wednesday to The Associated Press.

Acting Carbondale Police Chief Steve Odum said he's pleased the case has been solved.

"Now Pamela Travis' twin daughters will know who's responsible for their mother's death," he said.

Authorities have lost contact with most of the victim's family members, Odum said.

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